- 9 miles/15K
- Road Race
I worked in Utica from 2008 to 2011 at the NBC TV station WKTV as a producer. Coming in, I had no idea at the time what the Boilermaker was or just how big a deal it is to the city of Utica. During those years, I wrote web stories and uploaded finish line video, albeit very begrudgingly at the time.
After leaving, I started running and taking it seriously. During these past three years of running, I decided that I would enter the 15K and return to experience the race as one of the 14,000 participants. I registered on the day they opened it up to folks and just a little more than 2 hours later, it was full! I then booked myself a hotel room asap and was lucky to get a room at the Hotel Utica, literally just blocks from the finish line.
Fast forward to this past Saturday and I drove there from Westlake, OH. A journey of just about six hours on the road. I went straight to the Health & Fitness Expo on the campus of Mohawk valley Community College to get my goody bag, bib & other malarkey. The expo itself was a bit of a faff as there were tons of people, cars, etc and not too much order to the whole thing. Additionally, the parking lot is on the opposite end of where the expo itself was being held. After about 30 mins, I got my goody bag which included a Saranac pint glass, Boilermaker program and my bib.
I then headed back to my hotel room, got everything laid out for the next morning and had dinner at the hotel's restaurant. Amusingly, I turned the TV above my table to my old station and the lead story was a live news conference in which Boilermaker officials said the race was in jeopardy of being cancelled due to possible severe weather heading for Central New York. WHAT?!?! I was not about to let that get me down. A decision would be made on social media at 5AM race day they said. I went to sleep (or tried to) keeping positive.
Race day. I opened up my phone, went to the Boilermaker twitter and read the race was still on but that the post race party at the FX Matt Brewery would be shortened, ending at 11AM. With that, it was on with my gear, down to the lobby for a hearty runner's breakfast of eggs, bacon & orange juice and then walking with other runners to where shuttle buses were waiting to take us to the starting area by ECR International.
Upon arrival, I made my way towards the starting area and the sheer size of this trace started to hit home. Thousands upon thousands of folks all milling about , sitting stretching, chatting waiting to begin the lining up process. I managed to locate one of my former coworkers and fellow runner Bill along with some friends to help pass the time. He's a seasoned marathoner so I bow to his skill (he'd go on to finish in some 68 minutes!). Our bib colors determined where we lined up so he was well ahead of me and others.
As we lined up, I relegated myself towards the back with others. when the gun went off, you hardly knew it was under way but on my tip toes, you could see movement well ahead. It was a good 8-9 minutes until I started moving and got up to speed.
In the first 3 or so miles I finally understood why the whole city literally shuts down and comes out for this thing. There were TONS of people along both sides of the route with signs, shouting cheering, you name it! The same goes for bands, music, DJ's to keep folks moving. The most annoying bit was being that there are so many people taking part, it's hard to really get yourself going because you're constantly weaving in and out of others.
The good thing though is that there were some 21 aid stations along the route comprised of water, ice, POPSICLES (!!), slushies and even folks with their garden hoses to cool you off. IT was very humid that morning and despite being cloudy, I was dousing myself with plenty of water in addition to drinking plenty of it.
By mile 7 after having gone up the steep hill by Valley View Golf Course, I was super sore and had to walk several times. But by mile 9 I got myself back in a groove for the home stretch. I crossed the finishing line in 1:57:32. I had finished my first Boilermaker 15K and I was so pumped! I was also so dead as that was the longest race I had done.
Everyone was being marshaled towards the post race party at the brewery and I got my fill of drink and post race snacks in the form of Freihofer's chocolate chip cookies. After meeting up with Bill & Co. to compare our race stories, we went our separate ways and I walked back to the hotel.
I will say this: I am now hooked on the race and I will indeed be running it again next year. If you have the time to head to Central New York and take part, please do it! It's a true community event that brings out the best that a city has to offer.