Andover’s Feaster Five run a family celebration
Bill Rodgers will be there. So, too, will Joan Benoit Samuelson.
And they’ll be joined by 9,998 other not-so-famous runners in Andover on Thanksgiving Day morning for the Feaster Five, which, from its humble beginning in 1988, when approximately 300 toed the starting line, has grown to be the biggest 5K and 5-mile road race in New England.
Already, applications have been received from one end of the US to the other, including Hawaii. Some have come from as far away as Switzerland, Australia, Chile, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
The Feaster Five has become so popular that race director Dave McGillivray has been forced to cap the entries at 10,000 to “ensure its integrity.’’
McGillivray, of North Andover, who also oversees the Boston Marathon, said, “10,000 people is a lot of people, but just the right amount for us to ensure the safety and fun for all our runners and walkers, which is ultimately what the race is all about.’’
At the middle of last week, McGillivray estimated he had already reached more than half of the allotment. He is bracing for a flood of entries over the next three days as students and families flock back to the Merrimack Valley to celebrate Thanksgiving. So, McGillivray was asked, what has made the Feaster Five such an attraction?
“It’s all about family, family, and family,’’ he said. “Most races I direct, when an application comes in, it’s a single. With this one, when I open the envelope, there are 10, 20, 30, or 40 applications enclosed. It’s whole families registering, not individuals. This has become a happening, a real celebration, a social activity. Family members who have run it before are now challenging other family members to join them. And it’s become one of my favorites to direct.
“What’s interesting is that I have directed other races with 10,000 or more runners, and the pressure of putting on an elite event is significant. That pressure is not part of the Feaster Five. Everyone’s happy and the expectations are very different. The runners know this is a fun event more than a competitive one. People are surrounded by their families and friends and their attitude sends out positive emotional feelings. And don’t forget, every participant gets an apple pie.’’
The Feaster Five has drawn its share of VIPs - Boston Marathon legend Johnny Kelley in 1992, US Olympic bronze medalist Lynn Jennings in 1996, and actor Matt Damon in 2004 - but for the most part, participants are ordinary people.
And some of them keep coming back . . . and back . . . and back. Two of these are Lyn Licciardello of North Andover and Lou Peters of Methuen. They’ve run each and every Feaster Five.
Licciardello, Feaster Five VIP coordinator, admits that when the race was first proposed to the Merrimack Valley Striders in 1988, she was adamantly opposed.
“I didn’t want the Striders putting on this race. I was having company for Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t see how I could fit the race in and then get back home to prepare dinner,’’ she said. “The first several years I ran the race and then rushed home. Now I’m very much involved. It’s become a family event. My husband, Tom, is a coordinator and announces the race, and my daughter, Crissy, coordinates the volunteers. Now, looking back I’m glad the Striders approved the race.’’
Peters, 87, says he runs a lot of races, but the Feaster Five ranks among his favorites. “To see the kids running alongside their mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, and having such a great time, brings a smile to my face,’’ he said.
The race has special memories for McGillivray. He proposed marriage to Katie Breen of Salem, N.H. during the 2002 race.
“Back then, Andover used to light what was hailed as the country’s tallest Christmas tree in Brickstone Square,’’ he said. “I took her up on a cherry picker to the highest point of the tree, where I had planted an engagement ring. She reached in and grabbed it and said yes. We did that in front of more than 10,000 people.’’
Proceeds from the race benefit the Merrimack Valley YMCA, Ironstone Farm, and the host running club MV Striders. To register, visit FeasterFive.com.
UMass has met the enemy, sadly
If the University of Massachusetts Lowell field hockey team had one nemesis this season, it was West Chester (Pa.) University. The Golden Rams, who dropped from Division 1 to Division 2, stunned the defending national champions, 4-3 in overtime back in October in the season opener for both teams. The loss snapped UMass-Lowell’s win streak at 24. From that point on, the River Hawks won 19 of their next 21 games to earn a trip to the Division 2 NCAA championship game for the sixth time in seven years. The opponent? West Chester University. Once again, the Golden Rams prevailed, this time by a 2-1 score, to deny UMass-Lowell a second straight national title.
“These are the worst kind of losses, because we had lots of opportunities that we just didn’t finish on,’’ said coach Shannon Hlebichuk, who guided UMass to NCAA championships in 2005 and 2010. There’s no reason to doubt the River Hawks won’t be serious national contenders again next season. They graduate just three seniors and will return leading scorer Rachel McCarthy of Reading, who had 19 goals and 18 assists.
Seniors Kyle Pierce of Burlington and Eric Rice of Woburn are among those named tri-captains of the Wheelock basketball team. Pierce is the school’s single-game (12), single-season (100), and career leader (226) in assists. With 791 career points, Rice is looking to become the third player in program history to top the 1,000-point plateau. The two will share the captaincy with senior Elliott Hernandez of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. . . . UMass-Lowell cross-country coach Gary Gardner has been named East Region Coach of the Year by the US Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association. It was the fourth straight year he has been accorded the honor and the seventh time in the past 10 years . . . Merrimack, the only unbeaten (8-0-1) Division 1 hockey program in the country, has climbed to second behind Minnesota in the latest USCHO and USA Today polls. . . . Salem State back Josh DaSilva of Lowell and Framingham State midfielder Kayla Austin of Winchester have earned All-MASCAC first-team honors. . . . Salem State senior Alex Gomes of Peabody was named MASCAC Cross Country Runner of the Year. . . . Great start to the basketball season for Bentley junior Courtney Finn of Winthrop. She drained seven 3-pointers to tie a school record in an 82-57 win over Holy Family.
Around and about
The Stanley Cup will be on display at Tsongas Arena on Dec. 2 prior to the hockey game between UMass-Lowell and the University of New Hampshire. Doors open to the public at 5:30 p.m. . . . Olympian Meghan Duggan of Danvers captained the USA women’s national team that competed in the Four Nations Cup in Sweden. The US beat Canada, 4-3, in a title game shootout. . . . Woburn track coach Bill O’Connor will be inducted into the athletic hall of fame at Algonquin Regional in Northborough on Saturday. O’Connor coached at Algonquin from 1970-1985 before heading to Woburn.
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