Minute Man Race: Fleet of runners puts best feet forward for the community
A chill in the air and sudden shower didn't stop runners from rolling out to Compo Beach on Sunday morning for the 36th annual Minute Man Race, sponsored by the Westport Young Women's League.
The event consisted of a 10K run, a 5K run/walk and fun runs for kids ages 2 to 12. More than 1,200 people pre-registered for the event and at least another 300 signed up Sunday.
Meg Himes, the WYWL's vice president, said the race is one of the group's two major charity fundraisers of the year, the other being CraftWestport in November. "The league hands out grants every year with funds raised from our events, which all go to charities in lower Fairfield County. Beneficiaries include groups like Mercy Learning, Project Return and the Westport Department of Human Services. In all, almost 40 area charities benefit."
The race is no easy job to coordinate, with more than 120 volunteers -- primarily, WYWL members and the Staples High School Service League of Boys -- called into action. But the result is worth the effort: the league has already donated more than $60,000 to area charities in 2014, and about $40,000 was expected to be raised through the Minuteman Race events.
The WYWL currently has 126 members, local women of varying ages. They contribute to the community through volunteer work and financially, benefiting children, adults, women and education. Since the group was founded in 1956, it has raised more than $4 million for charities and community causes.
First Selectman Jim Marpe called the Minute Man Race one of the town's great family events. "It's been going on 36 years and still draws huge crowds," he said. "It's a great cause and, coincidentally, my wife, Mary Ellen, was a past chairman of the race."
Appropriately, the WYWL's work has even had an impact on the event's setting at Compo Beach, according to Natalie Fonteyne, the group's president. "Part of recent funds raised went to update the beach playground, which was damaged by Storm Sandy in 2012," she said.
Fonteyne was appreciative of town departments that support the event. "We couldn't do this race without Parks & Recreation, police and fire who help us set up, control traffic and provide safety," she said.
A number of families ran the race together. The Connells of Westport hit the race course together for a second consecutive year. "Last year was lots of fun and inspired us," said Amanda Connell. "We want to continue to make this an annual event."
Mike McCreesh of Southport expressed a similar sentiment. "My eldest daughter, Madison, has run this a couple of times in the past. My youngest daughter, Kira, and I decided to join her this year. I'm six days removed from running the Boston Marathon, so we'll see how my legs work," he said.