Female runners flock to BCC for 40th Women's Running Race on Mother's Day

Megan Anello captures 5K, mile wins

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GILLIAN JONES - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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PHOTOS | 40th Women's Running Race

PITTSFIELD — For Megan Anello, distance running has been a life-altering experience.

The 32-year-old mother of three boys, now ages 8, 6 and 2, realized after giving birth to her middle son she was out of shape and took up road racing.

Since the Windsor woman hit the local racing circuit four years ago, she has been a force to be reckoned with, especially during the annual Women's Running Race on Sunday.

Anello captured the 5K event on the Berkshire Community College campus for the second straight year with a time of 22 minutes and 19.52 seconds. After a brief 30 minute breather, she also won the 1-mile race just under 5:14.

Anello has come a long way from initially running the Mother's Day race in 2013, when the longer of the two distances was five miles or a shade more than eight kilometers.

"That was a killer course and a humbling experience as I watched women much older finish ahead of me," she said.

Anello joined 115 other women of all ages for the 5K; 65 finishing the 1-mile, with several entrants running both races.

Heather Williams (23:36.13), April Varellas (24:47.96), Kristy MacWilliams (25:20.29) and Jackie Nardin (25:22.89) rounded out the top 5 5K finishers. Karli Manship (5:28.65), Ellie Clark (5:51.94), Jen War (5:53.67) and MacWilliams (5:56.64) were the other top 5 finishers in the 1-mile race.

Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of one of the nation's oldest all-female road races, according to race director Shiobbean Lemme.

Last year, Lemme shared director duties with long-time race leader Kathy Korte, before Korte handed off the figurative starter's pistol to Lemme.

The two initiated the change to a 5K and 1-mile in 2016, in part, to help attract more runners. This year, race officials saved about $400 in trophy expenses, the money saved added to the proceeds and donations, estimated at $2,500, collected on behalf of the Elizabeth Freeman Center and other women-centric organizations.

Lemme, who with husband Kent own the Berkshire Running Center — a major advocate for local road racing — celebrated her 25th anniversary of distance running on Sunday as she made her racing debut in the 1992 Women's Running Race.

"I wore sweat pants, a baggy shirt and was near the end when I finished," she recalled. "It was the most exciting thing I had ever done."

In honor of the 40th anniversary, Juliette Wilk-Chaffee, 64, from Adams, wore a t-shirt from the very first one in 1978, the year before her first race.

After Wilk-Chaffee and her husband quit smoking in 1979, the missus decide to train every spring for the Mother's Day race, eventually making it a family affair. In later years she was joined by her daughter, other family members and friends.

Wilk-Chaffee has settled for running the shorter course in her later years, especially after turning 60.

"I couldn't wait to get into the 60-69 category so I had a chance to get a trophy," she said. "Last year being the first year for the 1-mile race, I won my age group."

Four decades since the race put local women athletes more in the spotlight, several race participants and organizers believe the single-gender event remains important to the Berkshire sports scene.

"What proves its value is the diversity of the level of runners; I see mothers, grandmothers and children," Wilk-Chaffee said.

Lemme says the Women's Running Race is especially significant for the older runners who remember when women had to fight for equal sporting rights on a national level.

"We're the largest growing demographic in running. We're seeing an offshoot of [Title IX] years later," she said.

Title IX refers to the Education Amendments of 1972 that prevents exclusion or discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal funding. It became the rallying cry on college campuses to equalize athletic opportunities for both men and women.

Coincidentally, 1972 was the first year Boston Marathon organizers allowed women to legitimately register for the storied race.

Competition aside, the race for many is about the bonding among the women, the men cheering from the sidelines and the family atmosphere.

"The whole race has an energy like no other. It's not about the time or winning," Anello pointed out. "I don't even look at my watch until after I cross the finish line."

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Top 10 5K finishers

1. Megan Anello, 22:19.52; 2. Heather Williams, 23:36.13; 3. April Varellas, 24:47.96; 4. Kristy MacWilliams, 25:20.29; 5. Jackie Nardin, 25:22.89; 6. Megan Francoeur, 25:32.48; 7. Mia Albano, 25:35.39; 8. Kellie Harrington, 25:35.58; 9. Faith Pudlo, 26:41.53; 10. Audrey Witter, 26:41.53.

Top 10 1-mile finishers

1. Megan Anello, 5:13.68; 2. Karli Manship, 5:28.65; 3. Ellie Clark, 5:51.94; 4. Jen War, 5:53.67; 5. Kristy MacWilliams, 5:56.64; 6. Natalie Pompi, 6:37.76; 7. Mya Wiles, 6:46.27; 8. Cecilia Pixley, 6:51.80; 9. Melissa Pixley, 6:51.96; 10. Jill Pompi, 7:05.05.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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