CHATHAM ─ Nearly 40 years ago a quartet of running enthusiasts, fresh from their participation in the renowned Falmouth Road Race, decided that another Cape venue needed a similar event, and the Chatham Harbor Run was born.
But in 2014, construction began on the aging Mitchell River Bridge, and the beloved Chatham run went on hiatus. At noon on June 26 the race returns and runners will once again be able to traverse its scenic course, including a jaunt across the nearly completed bridge.
John Whelan was one of the four friends who created the race, along with Dr. Rick Weiler, Frank Tobin, and former WCVB-TV anchor Jack Hynes.
“We started the race because we thought Chatham should have a race,” said Whelan, who ran it many times before going to work on the sidelines.
Whelan said at the time, the 10K started at what was then Chatham High School, following a visually stunning route that meandered through town, along the water, across the bridge, and ultimately back to the high school. Whelan and race director Larry Belliveau both remember more than 800 to 900 runners taking part in the annual event in its heyday, before the numbers settled back to around the 300 to 400 participants of recent years.
“It always depends on if it rains or not,” said Belliveau. “If it's a nice day, it'll be a good turnout.”
The race itself features a 10K run and a 5K walk along what is described as “miles of winding, rolling paved roads with breathtaking scenery.” Both Whelan and Belliveau said the scenic views are what make the race so special and unique.
“The fish pier, Chatham Bars Inn, the lighthouse, Stage Harbor,” said Belliveau. “It's a very scenic course. Demanding, but scenic.”
“It's a hard run,” said Whelan. “One of the things to caution people, it's deceptive. The first half of the race is pretty much downhill.”
Then, Whelan said, once runners hit Shore Road, the course starts to go uphill.
“The close is much harder than the start,” said Whelan. “You can be fooled.”
He agreed that, fortunately, the scenery makes it a very pleasant experience.
“You go down by Oyster Pond, then Battlefield, and when you're coming down the hill seeing the harbor, it's just wonderful. It is quite similar to the Falmouth Road Race, which has great scenery also.”
Though the town of Chatham has evolved through the years, the race has remained largely unchanged, with The Chatham Squire its longtime sponsor, joined in later years by The Cape Cod Chronicle and sealaw.org. Administering the race is the Cape Cod Athletic Club, to whom Whelan gives kudos.
“They're doing a very fine job,” he said, adding that the Squire has been the commercial sponsor for the entire history of the race.
Categories include runners age 12 and under, ages 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, and 80 and over, with trophies awarded to the first overall male and female finishers, the first Chatham residents, and the first finishers in each age group, as well as similar trophies for the 5K.
“People have been calling and asking when it would be back,” said Whelan, who said the race committee has been assured that the bridge will be down to allow runners to cross it during the races, even if it is not open to vehicle traffic.
“It'll be good to have the bridge open and the race running,” said Belliveau.
“I'm so happy about the gorgeous new bridge at Muddy Creek,” said Whelan. “It's so wonderful to have this new bridge too. I think [the race is] always fun. The crowd is usually pretty good, and we encourage people to run.”
Runners may register in advance by visiting capecodathleticclublorg, or by picking up a registration form at The Chatham Squire. Day-of registration begins at 10 a.m. at Monomoy Middle School at 425 Crowell Rd. Entry fee is $20, and races begin at noon on June 26.