Historically, the city known as the Paper City hosted so many Irish immigrants that the city was called Ireland Parish. An old mill town by nature, Holyoke is a rough and tumble city that prides itself on its Irish roots each year the weekend after St. Patrick’s Day with a Saturday 10k followed by one of the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades on Sunday morning. Mix in pubs filled with people enjoying Irish music, corned beef and cabbage and fresh Guinness and you have yourself one heck of a weekend.
The 10k road race is a hilly challenge with the first 3.5 miles featuring runners climbing their way toward Holyoke Community College. Once there, just past the four mile marker the course takes a dramatic down hill swing where you can really let the legs go. Another small incline is just past Holyoke High School around the 5.2 mile marker and the last mile is another nice downhill to allow you to kick it into the finish line.
This race prides itself on the merriment along the course with fans packing both the starting and finishing line and crowds strategically placed along the course. Parties at houses lining the course play Irish music, a marching band was at the 3.1 mile marker, a bagpiper plays away just shy of 4 miles and spectators genuinely are excited to see the runners taking to the streets of Holyoke.
This year’s race featured Dick and Rick Hoyt at the starting line as they are the JFK Award Winners and will be marching in the parade on Sunday morning.
This year, the first 3 miles or so I was cramping pretty good and had a tough time pushing through it. I felt a little better once through the hills but this was one of the first races I have done in a while as marathon training long runs have consumed a lot of my time. I finished the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race with a time of 54:57 which equates to 8:51/miles. Last year I ran about 4 minutes faster but with marathon training in full swing and stomach cramps not a terrible result.
The winners of this year ‘s Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race both hail from Ethiopia with Menitsu Nebsi winning the race overall with a time of 29:42 and female winner Askala Merachi beating the women’s course record with a time of 33:14.