Local run gets national press

Record turnout expected for New Year’s Day Sawmill 10K

MONTAGUE — Summer runners and sunshine joggers may have hung up their sneakers for the winter or retired to the stationary tedium of the treadmill, but organizers expect the upcoming Sawmill River 10k Run to draw more than a hundred back to the frozen roads.

A local institution somewhere near two decades in the running, the race rings in the new year with the clap of sneakers on the back roads of Montague Center in an approximately 6.2-mile loop beginning and ending at the village common, where hot food awaits chilled runners.

This year, race director Jon Dobosz expects a boost in numbers thanks to a write-up in the January issue of Runner’s World, a running magazine with a national monthly circulation averaging 726,016 in the first half of this year. Written by former Montague resident Adam Voiland, the article on pages 103-104 leads the “Races+Places” section with a description of Voiland’s family tradition, running the race with his father and brother Luke.

Voiland, 29, grew up in Montague Center and now lives in Washington D.C., where he is a full-time science writer and occasional contributor to the magazine.

“I of course wanted to do the Sawmill River Run; like I wrote in the article, it’s one I’ve been doing forever,” Voiland said.

Voiland said he first ran the race while a sophomore at Deerfield Academy, where he began running to stay in shape for the wrestling team and has since moved on to marathons.

“I love that race. That’s kind of my running grounds in a way because I lived right on Turners Falls Road. So race or not, I’m down there with my dad and my brother or just by myself, so I know those roads,” Voiland said. “You have to make things a little bit cheesy sometimes for the mass audience of a magazine like Runner’s World, but that really is a special place for me; that course and that land down there is a real important place.”

Voiland’s father, Paul Voiland, points out that the race course passes by Red Fire Farm, where his eldest son, Ryan, grew some of the potatoes that will be baked as the egalitarian all-participants prize.

For Dobosz, brisk post-New Year’s resolution exercise followed by baked potatoes with all the fixings, cider and cookies in the Montague Grange is a strong way to mark the first day of the year.

“It’s a good way to start off the year, whether you’re an avid runner or not; Jan. 1 is about new beginnings, a fresh start,” Dobosz said. “If you go out there, you start the year on the right foot.”

Dobosz, director of Montague Parks and Recreation, said the department took over the race in 2009, after founder Allen Ross stepped down as race director.

Calculating the race’s age is difficult. Dobosz believes the race is about 20 years old, begun in the 1980s by Ross.

Ross estimates he organized the race for about 17 years, missing at least one year at some point. Dobosz took over after a one-year lapse, and this will be his fifth consecutive year.

Regardless of its exact age, it is showing no signs of decrepitude.

Dobosz said it has grown each year that he has counted, from a low of 85 participants to 130 last year.

Ross attributes the race’s longevity to the support of the community — with potatoes donated or sold on the cheap by local farms to be baked by volunteers, roads cleared by the Department of Public Works — and the timing.

Ross, a now-retired physician, ex-Montague selectman and former owner of the Montague Book Mill, first began the summertime Montague Mug Race with friends, later founding the Sawmill run to fill a winter void.

“I think we just kind of filled a niche that was basically pretty empty around that time,” Ross said, providing runners looking to keep fit through the New England winter with the support and encouragement of a race.

As for who is willing to get up the day after New Year’s Eve’s traditionally late and alcohol-fueled festivities for a 10 a.m. race in seasonally appropriate conditions, Dobosz said the race sees all kinds.

The race has its share of avid runners and regular competitors; last year’s winner held an approximate 5:38-mile pace and the top 10 all finished under 40 minutes.

“We also get the casual runner, the individual who still goes out there on a daily basis and who is running for running’s sake,” Dobosz said. “It doesn’t matter what your skill level or experience is, we welcome anyone who wants to strap on their sneakers and start the year off right.”

If you want to run

Registration for the race is $25 in advance or $30 the day of the race, with proceeds to benefit the Recreation Department’s Sponsor-a-Child Scholarship program.

To register, find the form online in the Parks and Recreation Department’s section of the town website, montague.net, along with a course map and details, or sign up through race registration site runreg.com.

The race starts promptly at 10 a.m. from the village common off Main Street in Montague Center, with registration beginning at 9 a.m. in the adjacent Montague Grange, 34 Main St.

For more information or to request a mailed form in advance, call Parks and Recreation at 413-863-3216.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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