Pittsfield's Mark Rabasco wins the first Steel Rail Half Marathon
ADAMS -- When the Berkshire Running Center opened in 2011, part of its business model was organizing community events supporting the local running community.
Approximately 500 regional runners converged on the Ashuwillticook Trail in Lanesborough on Sunday for the inaugural Steel Rail Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile road race beginning at the Berkshire Mall.
Pittsfield-native Mark Rabasco beat the field to the finish line in front of the Adams Visitors Center with a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes and 5 seconds. In the last race of his competitive running season, the 18-year-old freshman at Keene State said he was pleased to end his season on such a positive note.
"I ran a couple 5k's and 10k's on the track with my team and finished it out with this," Rabasco said. "It was a good first season in college."
Unaccustomed to running races above 10 kilometers in distance, Rabasco said he tried to stay with the pack in his second half marathon. He pulled away from the pack, completing the race over 90 seconds better than the field, crediting in part the overcast weather conditions and the relative ease of the inherently flat course.
Megan Anello of Dalton, finished first among females, with a time of 1:30:41 (30th overall).
The brainchild of Berkshire Running Center co-owners Kent Lemme and Shiobbean Archey, the two spent at least seven months planning the half marathon, the second-longest such race scheduled in Berkshire County for 2013. Lemme recognized the shortage of longer races, saying it was a major impetus in his decision to organize this one.
"It was something that was missing. There's one other distance event longer than 10 [kilometers] in Berkshire County, so we thought there was a need," he said.
The race was the first of what could be many such running events. It didn't get going without some help.
While runner registration fees for the half marathon were used to pay the expenses of the event, $7,500 in funds donated from 25 local sponsors was raised to benefit the maintenance of the Ashuwillticook Trail.
A conversation by with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation led Lemme to conclude that more money should be allocated to the upkeep and potential for future expansion of the trail, which he believes is currently an invaluable resource.
"Somebody had a really great idea to put [the Ashuwillticook Trail] in and if it doesn't have adequate funds to maintain it the way we want to, it starts to slowly deteriorate and I didn't want that to happen," Lemme said, who was told by a representative at the DCR that funds may immediately be allocated to hire additional rangers to patrol and clean up the trail.
Berkshire Brewing Company, a craft beer brewery based in South Deerfield, donated three barrels of its pale ale called Steel Rail, pouring one free pint for every runner who crossed the finish line, hence, the name of the event.
With food vendors like Bounti-Fare Restaurant & Catering, Desperado Mexican Grill and Smithsonian Chowder House and live music by Tim Corrigan, the end of the race mimicked a miniature festival, amidst the backdrop of abandoned mills.
According to Lemme and Archey, the Pro Adams Group was largely responsible for coordinating the entertainment found at the race's end.
"This is what we want to happen in the town of Adams, is this whole community, this camaraderie between everybody," Dave Nicholas, a representative of the Pro Adams Group, said. "We want this to happen every Sunday, quite honestly.
Reid Juckett of Boston, ran his first half marathon along with his girlfriend and her family, who are native to Berkshire County.
"The crowds all along [the trail] help spur you on at every road crossing," Juckett said. "Just hearing the music ahead of you kind of helped you power through whatever pain was going on."
When asked how he is able to appear so relaxed immediately after running over 13 miles, Juckett said, "Let's talk tomorrow."