Darien Road Race most successful since inception

The more than three decades old Darien Road Race has been an annual staple for both elite runners training for marathons and the more casual runner and this year's event proved that sentiment with the best turnout in the race's history.

Founder and Co-chairwoman of the Darien Road Race Mary Green said the turnout for this year's race was a record high.

"We had over 500 runners for the even this year," Green said. "Our youngest participant was four and our oldest was 90."

Green started the Darien Road Race in 1979 when she was contacted by the National Cancer Society. Green, who was an avid runner, suggested the Darien Road Race as a means to get the community involved and raise money for a charitable organization.

"We started with a small committee and since then and it's grown to not only include runners training for other events, but also to become a family event," Green said.

Since its inception, the Darien Road Race course underwent a minor adjustment last year.

"The direction of one of the courses was reversed because of the risk to runners heading into traffic," Green said. "The change has made a slight impact on traffic but no more than if wires were down in the road."

Before the race began, First Selectman and Grand Marshall David Campbell welcomed participants and spectators.

"Our town is delighted to have such a community-spirited event here in Darien," Campbell said. "We welcome you and look forward to hosting the Darien Road Race for many years to come."

The high temperatures for Sunday's race didn't have much of an impact on the top finishing racers. The overall male first place winner for the 10K race was Geoff Nelson 25, of New Fairfield with a time of 34:17. The second place finisher was Alex Ostberg, 13, of Darien with a time of 36:08. The third place finisher was Jan Sopko, 32, of Stamford with a time of 36:49.

The overall first place female winner was Meredith Kalish, 34, of Greenwich with a time of 41:47. The second place finisher was Dana Conrad, 35, of Norwalk with a time of 44:44. The third place finisher was Walker Vemarsh, 15, of Westport with a time of 45:15.

The overall first place female winner for the "Loop" was Sabrina Rautter, 13, of New Fairfield with a time of 9:57. The second place finisher was Charlotte Harmon, 10, of Darien with a time of 12:04. The third place finisher was Juliet Homes, 9, of Darien with a time of 12:48.

The overall first place male winner for the "Loop" was Jack Murray, 12, of Darien with a time of 10:58. The second place finisher was Danny Ross, 13, of Darien with a time of 11:37. The third place finisher was Jeb Rooney, 10, of Darien with a time of 11:44.

Participants for Sunday's event came from different towns in Fairfield County and from New York and New Jersey.

The money that is raised pays for the expenses of organizing the road race and the rest is donated to three charities.

"We give money to the cancer center at Norwalk Hospital, the cancer center at Stamford Hospital and the Darien Community Fun," Green said.

Green was unsure of the exact amount of money raised this year because there were still bills to pay and contributions coming in, but she estimated that the race raised about $35,000.

"Over the 31 years we've been doing this event, we've raised about $875,000 overall," Green said.

A special award is given to the participant who raises the most money. This year's winner was Martha Olson who received the Jim Fixx Award for being the top fundraiser by raising $1,120.

Other awards given after the race was completed included the Atria awards which were given to the oldest and youngest runner to complete the course. This year's oldest runner was Neil Knox, 90, of Darien and the youngest was Christopher Jaskiewicz, 4, of Darien.

Green described Sunday's race as being "absolutely the best" since the race started. She said the event had more runners, more spectators, more volunteers and the number of sponsors increased by five. Green also noted that the race retained all of their legacy sponsors from previous years.

"All the sponsors are local and their mission is to give back to the community," Green said.

Some of the sponsors set up events and games for children to participate in while the race was underway.

For those who participated in Sunday's race, a chair massage was available upon completion of the course.

"This is a very community spirited event," Green said.

Not only does the event have the support of local sponsors, it also gets the endorsement of neighbors who own property along the race route.

"The neighbors are overjoyed to have back each year," says Green.

Already the Darien Road Race committee is getting prepared to begin planning next year's event.

"We're hoping to get together and debrief and would love to see everyone come back next year," Green said.