NEWINGTON - A summertime town tradition since the 1960s starts up again this July.
That would be the Newington Fun Runs began on Wednesday, July 10. The series continues Wednesdays, July 17, 24, 31 and Aug. 7 and 14. All ages and abilities are welcome to come together at 6:30 p.m. on the cross country trails behind John Wallace Middle School, 71 Halleran Drive, Newington.
“We’ve been going as a family at least eight years; before that I wasn’t really even into running,” said 19-year-old Tommy Doyle.
Tommy now runs cross country and track for Wesleyan University in Middletown, where he attends school. His parents and younger sister also participate in the Fun Runs.
“We can’t keep up with him,” Kelley Doyle, his mother, said. “The Newington Fun Runs are a great thing to do in the summer. It’s something we look forward to. It’s just a nice, friendly group of people.”
Race coordinator Jay Krusell likes to keep the competition friendly. Both 3K and 5K races take place each Wednesday and ribbons and prizes are awarded. The events are free and open to the public.
In past years, they’ve attracted local residents and out-of-towners from Connecticut’s Run 169 Society, who have a goal of participating in running events in all 169 towns.
At the end of the summer, Krusell and fellow volunteers present some pretty unique trophies to participants. Some are handmade and others donated by the runners themselves, from races across the country and the world.
Last year, participants went home with German Volksmarches trophies donated by Lou Zabohonski, a former town resident who partook in the Fun Runs in the Seventies.
The program was founded by former Newington High School cross country coach Frank O’Rourke, who coached famed marathon runner and town native Bill Rodgers.
Last summer, between 50 and 100 people took part any given week, with upwards of 200 unique runners.
The runs have continued over decades due to the collaborative efforts of residents and Newington Parks and Recreation staff, who market the program, provide supplies and handle logistics.
“The Fun Runs have a positive impact on the Newington community because it brings runners of all ages together,” Recreation Supervisor Nick Pizzoferrato said. “We see young kids through senior citizens participating. It’s a great way to stay in shape while meeting new people with a similar interest.”
Pizzoferrato called Krusell “the face of the program.”
“He attends each session, takes registration and hands out awards. He leads the runs and motivates runners to push themselves, at a pace that is safe for each runner.”
Husband and wife Cary and JoDee Cyr have been participating the last four years. They also volunteer at the runs, time-keeping and gathering flags from the course.
“It’s fun,” Cary said. “I like to run and I like to encourage other people to run and to come back and have a good time year after year.”
Runs take place in rain or sunshine. Check out Facebook.com/Newington.Fun.Runs/ for updates.