By Chris Villani Sports Reporter/Columnist · March 23, 2017
The 37th annual Boston Marathon tune-up race, sponsored by the Tri-Valley Front Runners, is anticipating a record number of runners for this year's event after being designated as a New England Grand Prix event by the United States Track and Field Association.
"We are a USATF-affiliated club and generally, running clubs will put on a better race experience than other entities for the simple reason that we are all runners," said Front Runners club president Christopher Kivior. "We know how to operate a race."
Many of the approximately 400 runners, who have attacked the 15K (9.3 mile) course in the event's three-and-a-half-decade history, are doing so to get ready to run Boston just a couple of weeks later. Kivior said he hopes the Grand Prix certification will add another 200 to 300 runners.
The race starts at Nipmuc High School at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 1. The event boasts a storied-history, four-time Boston winner Bill Rodgers still holds the event record with a time of 46:08 set in 1986. The vast majority of the hilly course is in Upton, with a small section dipping into Northbridge, Kivior said.
The process for being certified as a Grand Prix race included certifying the course's distance along with other aspects of the event and members of the USATF had to vote on the certification. Kivior said he is not sure whether the club will continue to apply going forward, saying he wanted to see how this year turned out. He noted, the membership of the club, which has doubled in recent years, allowed for enough volunteers to help staff the race.
"More volunteers made it easier for us to make that jump to apply," Kivior said. "Now that the course is certified, we could theoretically have a national age-group record set. I expect the winning time for the men to be sub-50 minutes. It's definitely a special year."
For the third straight year, the race will be named for longtime event director Frank Nealon, an original member of the Front Runners who passed away in 2014.
The club boasts approximately 400 members and sponsors six events per year, Kivior said. The nonprofit organization promotes health and fitness and also donates a portion of proceeds to local charities and other nonprofits.
Registration for those interested in running can be done online or at Nipmuc Regional High School on race day beginning at 8:30 a.m.