Runners in the Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half Marathon will make tracks for Westport this year after a hiatus of more than a decade, after the Board of Selectmen approved Wednesday an approximately three-mile section of the June 23 race in town.
"This is a long time in coming and we're excited," Stephen Lobdell, the race's director, said on Wednesday.
"We're going to work hard with Westport to make it a positive experience for everybody involved. We want to be part of the community."
Runners in this year's half marathon are scheduled to cross from Fairfield into Westport on Greens Farms Road around the 4.5-mile point in the race. They will continue west down that road, until they turn onto New Creek Road. They will then make another turn onto Beachside Avenue, where they will re-enter Fairfield on Pequot Avenue in the Southport section of that town around the 7.5 mile-mark.
Runners are expected to enter and leave Westport within approximately 60 to 75 minutes of the race start in Fairfield's beach neighborhood, according to Lobdell.
During its first 21 races from 1981 to 2001, the Fairfield Half Marathon's route included part of Westport. More than 200 runners from Westport participated in last year's race, which had a total of approximately 3,600 finishers, according to Lobdell.
"We have people asking all the time, `When can we come back to Westport?' " said Dorian Kail, a Westport resident who coaches a team that runs in the half marathon to raise money for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the event's "signature" charity. "It's such a beautiful course when we can run through Westport."
Lobdell acknowledged that past half marathons occasionally produced "communication issues" related to some Westport residents who needed to leave their homes the day of the race not being aware of the event. In response, he said this year's race would be well-communicated to Westport residents who live along the route. Westport police also expressed confidence that this year's half marathon would not overburden the town.
Westport police have extensive experience managing races on the town's thoroughfares. Approximately 15 events held in Westport last year used the town's roads, according to Calka.
The Greens Farms Association has also backed routing the three-mile stretch of the half marathon through town this year. The neighborhood group reached that decision after the race's organizers agreed to "adequate" police and emergency-medical services, reached out to residents and made a route change that minimizes the event's impact in the neighborhood, Art Schoeller, president of the Greens Farms group, said Thursday.
"We are hopeful that the issues that surfaced the last time this event ran through Westport will not be repeated," Schoeller added. "The running community in Westport is an important constituent, along with the benefit to the Hole in the Wall Gang charity."
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