UTICA — With a record field of 14,000 runners gathered in Utica on Sunday morning for the featured 15-kilometer race in the 35th annual Boilermaker Road Race, a sizeable presence came from Rome and the surrounding areas.
The field consisted of men and women from Rome, Camden, Holland Patent, Westmoreland, Lee Center, Barneveld, Turin, Oriskany, Sylvan Beach, Vernon, Verona, Remsen and many other towns and cities in Central New York.
Runners of all ages had their own reasons for joining the record-breaking field, ranging from training for other things or just wanting to be a part of one the biggest events in the Mohawk Valley region.
"There’s just a real positive energy, but every year I come here, it feels like there’s more and more that are here," said Holland Patent native Augie Allen, who raced to a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 59 seconds to finish in 1,091st place. "It’s amazing. I hate it that they capped it (the field size), but I know they did it for good reasons. It sells out quick, so you have to get your tickets early."
It seemed as if the new entrants that came from last year’s then record-breaking field received such a positive influence from their experience that there was no doubt to them that they would return for another go-around as well as bring in new members to join along with them.
Barneveld native and HP graduate Kevin Sidoran also ran his first Boilermaker 15K two years ago. He wanted to improve on his result from then and brought in several of his former HP cross country teammates and friends with him.
"I started out the race with (teammate) Todd Stevens, but at about the two-mile mark he kept going and I didn’t want to kill myself trying to keep, so I let him go and I started to drop back," said Sidoran, who finished 289th at 1:00:41. "It was pretty hot, especially the last mile. I improved my time by 15 minutes though. Came much more prepared than before."
One of Sidoran’s friends, Rome native Tyler Evans, said he has come to the race countless times but added that this year he wanted to use it to train for an upcoming Ironman event in Lake Placid.
"It’s a little warm-up for the run in the Ironman," said the 20-year-old Evans, clocking 1:01:57 for 348th. "This is one of the top five toughest things I’ve done, but the best part about being out there for me is probably the people cheering. Once you get to mile three there were a lot of people on the sides and they start to pick you up so you can keep going. You feel a little bit fresher."
Like Sidoran, Camden native Andrew Spagnuolo participated in his second Boilermaker as well and got into it when his cross country coach from Camden High School, Steve Baker, signed him up for it.
"I definitely improved this time," he said after finishing with a time of 1:10:10. "Last year, it seemed a lot bigger and a lot tougher. This year, I have the experience. I knew exactly what to train for. It’s crazy but everyone is cheering to keep you going when you’re wondering when that next mile marker is coming up."
Rome native Matthew Wallace, who finished 566th in 1:05:13, said he looks forward to this race more than anything of the year.
"It’s my 14th year. It’s fun to do it with family, and it’s always the highlight of the year," he said. "My brother-in-law started it about 15 or 16 years ago and everybody kind of joined in over the years."
Peggy Igoe of Sylvan Beach began racing the 15K five years ago to see if she could live up to the race’s challenge.
"It’s fun. I wanted to try it and see if I could finish it," said Igoe, who finished 404th among female runners in 1:16:48. "Now I try to see if I can beat my time every year."
Rome native Ron Drake said the toughest part of the 15K course is going through the steep hills at Valley View Golf Course.
"It’s hard. I do my best and just try to follow everybody else," said the 42-year-old Drake, who ran for 1:23:53. "You’re going to get run over if you don’t. It’s unbelievable that this broke records again. I got my registration back in January because I knew it would sell out."
Josh Olney, 30, was the top finisher from Rome as he placed 61st overall and finished at 52:49, while 15-year-old Benjamin Schmidt was the youngest Roman in the race, finishing 381st at 1:02:35. The 74-year-old Rome native Kermit Cadrette was third in the male 70-74 age division.
No matter where they all come from or whatever purpose they had in racing in the event, there was a sense from each that there was something more special about this edition of the Utica road race.
"I definitely felt it was more different," said Marcy native Joe Mashaw, who ran for the 15K for the 13th time this year. "It seemed to be more proud everywhere you went even up in the hills. It’s always sweet when you’re running and everyone is cheering for you no matter who you are."