Wednesday July 4, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- For 27 years, the annual Independence Day Run has been going strong.

For that matter, so has Michael Hogue. Hogue has been race director of the event since its inception in 1985.

"My family and I used to go to the Pittsfield Fourth of July parade in the afternoon," recalled Hogue. "The city would close off the streets, and I remember thinking that with the streets closed off, it would be great to have a road race."

From that relatively modest thought has emerged one of the larger, most competitive races in the county every year.

The 5K race (approximately 3.1 miles) usually attracts a host of local race enthusiasts, as well as runners from throughout the Northeast.

Defending champion David Raucci of Germantown, N.Y., a five-time winner of the race, has not yet registered, said race officials. He has, however, traditionally registered at the last minute.

This year, more than 1,000 runners are expected to participate, according to Kent Lemme, another race organizer. As of yesterday afternoon, Lemme said more than 900 were already registered.

"We'll have a very good turnout," he said.

The weather could be a factor. For many years, it's been the heat. And if it's not the heat, it's the humidity. But tomorrow, showers are expected for the early morning. There is no concrete forecast as to how long those showers will last.

"I've heard a lot of different forecasts over the past several hours," said Lemme, "so I'm not sure what to expect."

The race begins on Wahconah Street, about a half-mile past Wahconah Park. Runners eventually end up at the park, where the awards ceremony, slated for about 10:30 a.m., is held.

Trophies will be presented to the top five finishers, as well as the top five finishers in each age division.