New Bedford Half Marathon draws enthusiastic, satisfied record crowd

newsletter-108-3Brisk but sunny, it was a day for milestones with a record number running New Bedford’s 36th half marathon Sunday.
“You did it! You did awesome!” cheered Amy Cornwell from Milford as her friend Karen Tegelaar from Medway crossed the finish line, 2 hours 42 minutes into the race. Panting and sipping water, Tegelaar said “My feet are killing me.”
While the wind whipped cold, the enthusiastic support of the spectators went a long way, the first-time runner said. Tegelaar said she lost a cousin in November and ran the race as part of Relay for Life, raising $600.
First-time participant Kristi Cabot of Cambridge said she was “very sore” but that it had been a scenic run by the water.
With 3827 runners registered, this was the city’s biggest half marathon to date. Despite the cold and the windy section by the beach, spirits ran high among participants, visitors, officials and residents.
Minutes before the race began, runners warmed up downtown.
Sporting a long-sleeved green T-shirt, Tim Irish (“Yes, that’s my real name”) was concerned about the chill in the air. “I could do with warmer weather,” he said. ‘I’m going with the whole idea of finishing today.”
Second-time participant Matthew Hall said, “I feel pretty good. I actually like the cold. It’s better when you get to mile 12, it feels nice.”
As runners gathered under a large green banner on Purchase Street, barricaded off at the sides with white metal fences, families and friends cheered, stomped and rang bells.
Mindy Menard, sporting a green lace tutu, green shirt and green headband, cheered Team Molly from the Schwartz Center for Children in Dartmouth. Her daughter Molly, 4, was warmly wrapped up in a white fleece blanket with a green shamrock. She goes to school at the center and it would be her third year participating in the half marathon, Menard said.
Race director Dan McCarthy of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, race organizers for the past four years, came out to the podium to the sound of “Danny Boy” and wished everyone a safe run.
The loudspeaker blared “I got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night” as the crowd chanted the countdown before the first runners took off at 11 a.m. It took 4 1/2 minutes for all the participants to cross the start line.
From people dressed in costumes ó a whale, an Irish flag with a beer mug hat – to an abundance of St. Patrick’s Day paraphernalia, dressed-up dogs and babies, it was party on Purchase Street where the race started and ended.
U.S. Rep. Bill Keating’s wife, Tevis Keating, carried Annie, her Maltese, snuggled up in a zebra-patterned blanket and sporting green shamrock clips, and said race day was special for the family.
“We come to New Bedford as much as we can,” she said, but especially for the half marathon. “It’s growing in numbers and it’s good for the city. It’s also good for people preparing for the Boston Marathon.”
Ward 4 Councilor Bruce Duarte said it is a special event for everyone. He thanked the Friendly Sons, the runners and all the people who had come down to New Bedford “in record numbers” for the day. “Welcome to New Bedford, and hope you come back,” he said.
Miss Teen New Bedford Megan Silvia, 15, who sang the national anthem before the race, said the event was amazing.
“It’s great to see all the people who participate and it’s really a great cause,” she said.
Tom Crabbe of Crabbe Chiropractic and a member of the Friendly Sons oversaw a tent set up with massage tables. “We freeze our butts off during the race and we work our butts off after,” he said. “We do post-race massage and stretching for the runners.”
Several visitors explored the area, heading into the Ocean Explorium, stopping at the Whaling Museum or just sitting outside.
Jennifer Collyer from Fairhaven, whose son Evan ran for Team Alexia this year, took pictures of the Artworks! yarn bombing art project at the William Street fountain, which was wrapped with knit pieces, and said it was interesting.
Sue Bancroft said she came to support her husband, Dan, who was running from Fairhaven and intended to stay the day.
“He loves to hang around here. He gets so excited about the chowder and sandwiches,” she said.
By 2:30 p.m., half marathon organizers had already served 2,500 runners with the traditional food the race is now famous for.
“It’s going great” said Jeff Sanders, treasurer of the half marathon. “Every runner is going to get a fish sandwich and chowder from New Bedford.”
Longtime participants and businesses said the organization of the race was good and that it was a safe run.
“It went well, considering every year that the number of runners increases,” said Rick Rosenfield, vice president of the Greater New Bedford Track Club, which had a small tent outside the YMCA and handed out bagels and bananas to runners after the race. “I think the best part about the half marathon is the traffic control and the added aid stations this year.”
It was a festive atmosphere at Wing’s Court, where there was a band for the first time, along with a beer stand from the Pour House Tavern and a food stall from Destination Soups.
Many of the downtown businesses, especially those serving food, were swamped. Volunteers from Braza set up a small coffee, popcorn and sandwich stand on Purchase Street for the second year; there was a line out the door at The Green Bean across the street.
“So far it’s been very busy,” said Roberta Polk, clerk at Dusty’s Store, a convenience store at Purchase and Union streets. “It’s nice to see a lot of people downtown.”
“It’s nice to see the streets filled with people,” said Mariano Pinho, owner of the Urban Grille, which opened last year. He said he expected the marathon to boost business. “I think it’s a great way to promote tourism in the city.”
Mayor Jon Mitchell, who ran a leg pushing a wheelchair-bound child for the Schwartz Center, later shook hands with people while in his running gear.
“This was a great day for the city,” he said, thanking the city workers and the Friendly Sons. “Notwithstanding the cold, a tremendous number of people came out to support the runners.”
Watching from the sidelines for her daughter Kate with her cocker spaniel, Sandy Lundy from Brookline thought the race was good.
“It looks like there are people from all over the state and region and it’s a great day for the city,” she said, as the loudspeaker announced the names of runners crossing the finish line.
Not everyone came for the race; some came specifically for the Irish holiday. A sign outside the Pour House Tavern read “Run, eat, drink.” Inside, it was packed. George West from Fall River nursed a glass of Guiness there and said 50 of them came in a bus for St. Patrick’s Day.
“We switch it up every year and picked New Bedford this year for our pub crawl,” he said.
By Auditi Guha
March 18, 2013 12:00 AM
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