New Bedford Sprinting Toward 41st Half Marathon
NEW BEDFORD — This Sunday, thousands of runners will fill the streets of New Bedford for the 41st annual New Bedford Half Marathon.
In an appearance with WBSM's Ken Pittman, race director Dan McCarthy of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick said race day is a great day for New Bedford, as it's a chance to show off the city for people who come from all over the country and the world to take part in the race.
"The city does an amazing job. It's really a celebration of the workers who put in their heart and soul to make sure that New Bedford puts its best foot forward on Marathon Sunday," McCarthy said. "The team at (the Department of Public Infrastructure), I can't give them enough credit this time of year. They're out there filling potholes, making sure the streets are clean from curb to curb."
The DPI will put out more than 400 parking barrels and more than 3,000 parking cones to shut down traffic along the race course, and keep the runners and spectators safe.
"It really is one of the unique times that people come in from out of town and get to see a beautiful swath of the city," McCarthy said.
The forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures of about 40 degrees and plenty of sun, ideal conditions for the runners who will use New Bedford as a tune-up for the Boston Marathon just five weeks later.
Taking part in the race will be Mattapoisett resident and two-time Boston Marathon winner Geoff Smith. Smith set the men's course record for New Bedford back in 1985 at 1:01.59, a record that's not likely to fall anytime soon. He'll be running along with his son, Edward.
The women's record is held by Ingrid Kristiansen at 1:10.38. It was set in 1989, and was a world record at the time.
McCarthy said Ruben Sanca, a Cape Verdean Olympian who won New Bedford twice and finished second to winner Louis Serafini last year, will be back again on Sunday, along with a slew of other familiar names.
"It's such a draw in the running community," he said.
About 1,000 volunteers will come together to help the Friendly Sons put on the race, after the organization took it over from the Greater New Bedford Track Club about 10 years ago. McCarthy said many of the volunteers will work the course's seven water stops, and hundreds will help out at the YMCA, helping the runners get their numbers and t-shirts before the race, and then serving the postgame meal of a fish sandwich and clam chowder to the runners after it.
"It's a case study in volunteerism, and giving back to the city on an annual basis," he said. "We encourage people who aren't familiar with it to just come and watch, take a look at what's going on, and then join us in future years."
He also said many of the runners' families will come just to enjoy all New Bedford has to offer for the day.
"If you're downtown as a spectator or if you dropped off a loved one who is going to run, all the downtown businesses are open, so you can go to a museum, or get involved (in something)," McCarthy said. "Watch the start, do something downtown, and then come back to the finish."
"It's a wonderful day, and we encourage everyone in the city to get out, get involved, come and watch or just stand on your porch and clap as these people go by, because they really appreciate it," he said.
The starting gun fires off at 11 a.m., and there is a three-hour time limit on the course. McCarthy said three years ago, the Friendly Sons began enforcing the time limit more strictly, and there is a waiver runners must sign to participate that acknowledges they can finish the race in that time period, so the city can reopen the streets. He said if a runner runs into trouble and won't finish in time, Alert Ambulance has a bus service that will go around the route and pick up anyone who thinks they can't complete the race in time.
"If you get deterred, you're just faster to the YMCA for the fish sandwich and chowder, faster to the bars for the good seats and the good entertainment," McCarthy said with a laugh.