NAUGATUCK — What started as a little road race to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and raise money for charity could blossom into one of the larger road races in the state.
At least that’s what organizer James Goggin hopes.
Goggin, the borough’s tax collector, and several other volunteers are preparing for the fourth annual race, which this year will be called the ion Bank St. Patrick’s Day Road Race and Festival. The race, which is the major fundraiser for the Naugatuck Education Foundation, will be held on the morning of Saturday, March 15, in downtown Naugatuck on Old Firehouse Road behind the Naugatuck Fire Department.
As usual, runners will get a free corned beef sandwich or hot dog and a beer or soda. And for the first time this year, the race will include a 10K jaunt (roughly 6.2 miles) as well as a 5K run (about 3.1 miles).
While the corned beef sandwiches are good, the 10K is what Goggin believes will be a major draw for people all over the state and beyond.
“People who want to prepare for a half-marathon, like the Cheshire half-marathon, which is a month later, will come out for this,” he said. “It’s early in the season, so we’re in a good position.”
Last year, the race, which began and ended in the Union City section, drew 250 runners. Goggin expects that the 10K component and the new course will draw 500 people.
That pales in comparison to some of the larger road races in the state, such as the Litchfield Hills Road Race, which includes both a 2.3-mile run and a more popular 7.1-mile run. That is held every June and often draws more than 1,500 runners. That race was established in 1977 and has a strong following. Goggin believes Naugatuck will get there, eventually.
“I don’t think it’s fair to try to market this race to that many runners (1,500) this year because we have to give it a chance,” he said. “But this is a great course, and I think people will love it and want to come back.”
If not for the running, many will want to come back for the cause.
The Naugatuck Education Foundation, or NEF, raises money for teachers who want to implement extracurricular programs for their students. Last year, the foundation gave out $10,000, and $7,000 came from the road race. The grants went toward a variety of programs, such as a greenhouse at Andrew Avenue Elementary School, startup costs for an online newspaper at City Hill Middle School, an afterschool arts program at Hillside Intermediate School and a sound system for the drama club at Western Elementary School.
Matt Fortney, the NEF president, said ion Bank has donated a sizable amount of money to the NEF as the major corporate sponsor for this year’s road race. That, coupled with what the race draws, will be a major boon for the not-for-profit organization.
“This race has enabled us to do so much more,” he said. “At first, we could afford to give out a few donations of $500, and now we can give out $10,000 or more. It’s great for the students and the school system in general.”
For more information about the ion Bank St. Patrick’s Day Road Race and Festival, and to register online, visit www.naugatuckroadrace.org or search by the full name on Facebook.