Sunday March 31, 2013

NORTH ADAMS -- Brian Alarle and Tim Morey fought back fatigue and sprinted the final few yards of the 5K Bunny Run in North Adams.

The winner? The Louison House Family Life Support Center in Adams, a nonprofit homeless shelter that also teaches life skills and provides other supportive programs to those in need.

About 200 participants, including Alarle and Morey, ran in the first "Bunny Run" on Saturday, raising an estimated several thousand dollars through registration fees for the Louison House, according to race coordinators. The race also included a one-mile walk.

The flat course started at Holden Street and then traveled east through Main Street to Ashland Street. Runners turned around at Ashland and went down American Legion Drive to Main Street, then finished back at Holden Street.

"For this time of year it's perfect weather conditions. You can see people running in T-shirts," said Morey, 55, who finished the race in about 22 minutes but didn't have enough gas to beat Alarle. He said they routinely see each other in competitive races.

Race aside, Morey said he knew there was a more important reason the runners had gathered there.

"You're running for a great cause," he said.

The top finisher was Brian Kirchner, 23, a cross-country runner at Williams College. He finished at 17:29. The top female finisher was Jacqueline Shakar, of Williamsburg, who finished at 20:49.

Federal government funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has been level for about 20 years, according to Executive Director Paul Gage, who oversees Louison House operations. The funding from the race -- along with contributions from restaurants The Local and El Coche Taco Truck -- will support Louison House programs that include life skills and financial budgeting.

There were about 6,000 overnight stays and 150 people who turned to the Louison House last year for assistance, Gage said.

"[The level funding is] a cut because the costs go up and if it's level you're going down and you have to find some way to pay for the costs," Gage said.

Gage said he expected the turnout to increase next year.

The large crowd that came out praised both the weather and the Louison House.

North Adams resident Perry Burdick came out with a 14-member group called the Tough Mudder.

With Easter a day away, some showed up wearing bunny ears and costumes. They all had enthusiasm for supporting a good cause.

"[The Louison House] is probably one of the most worthwhile causes in North Adams" because of the diversity and range of people, Burdick said.

Mark Farrington, the Louison House board of directors chairman, said there were about 140 people who pre-registered and 60 others who registered the day of the race.

"It was very good for the first year," Farrington said. "It was a good turnout. It's a good event and we hope to keep drawing people out to it. The cause is certainly worthy."

To reach John Sakata:
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On Twitter: @jsakata