5K in Pittsfield lets ambitious start off new year on right — and left — foot


PITTSFIELD — Over 100 runners stormed North Street on Tuesday, their breathing heavy and fists alternating like pistons.

With 150 finishers, there were more New Year's Day runners than ever before, said Berkshire Running Center co-owner Kent Lemme.

The center's fourth 5-kilometer race offered experienced runners a jump-start for the new year, some participants said, while others simply looked for an opportunity to earn their New Year's Day brunch.

Kevin Rayner, 20, took first place, with a time of 16 minutes, 41 seconds. He said he runs cross-country for Westfield State University and previously he ran for Pittsfield High School.

"On the holidays, I just come home and race in my hometown," he said, smiling, moments after crossing the finish line.

Sweat dripped down the sides of his flushed face.

"I ran up Greylock yesterday," he said of the state's tallest mountain, "because I wanted a hike and a run."

It was his first time running a race on New Year's, he said, calling it "a great way to start the year."

As Rayner beamed from the sidelines, other runners groaned as they crossed the finish the line with another lap to go.

One of Rayner's teammates, Matthew Rogler, 20, of Pawtucket, R.I., also tagged along. He said it was a nice way to hang with his friend on New Year's, though he said the wind held him back some.

"The wind was really kicking," he said.

April Varellas, 35, of Adams, was the first female to finish. She said she was disappointed with her time, 21:46, and said the forceful wind hadn't helped.

Still, it was a "good start to the new year."

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While other runners took prizes, Sarah Wright and Rosemary McLaughlin, both of Lee, said their prize was brunch at Hotel on North. McLaughlin said they were searching around online for New Year's Day brunch opportunities "and this popped up."

McLaughlin said it piqued their interest because they normally try to do something outside to start the new year.

"It gets the right mindset," she said.

Wright added that the mild-weather event offered her a chance to see recent changes in downtown Pittsfield.

"It was nice to see some of what's been going on," she said.

The last runners crossed the finish line at 11:54 a.m., and Lemme started packing up. He said the fourth annual event marks the first run of the year, throughout which the center works to keep people motivated. That can sometimes be a challenge during the winter months, he said.

"We try to give people a reason to get out there, participate and have fun seeing their running friends," he said.

Six-month-old Grant White sat on his dad's lap and smiled as his mom ran by. His 4-year-old older brother, Eric White, suddenly remembered that it's New Year's and there's sparkling grape juice at home waiting for them.

Their older brother, Trent Bolognani, 14, said he sometimes runs with his mom, but he felt more like watching Tuesday.

Michael Burtt of Pittsfield stood watching from the sidewalk with his kids, who, with mouths full of doughnuts, waved to their running mother.

He said the off-season event offered an uncommon opportunity for the children to see their mother race, since, during the warmer months, they have athletic events of their own.

It's "too busy during the summer to do this," he said, so "we come during the wintertime when we can."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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