The race director for tomorrow night’s second annual Flag Day 5K is hoping to draw the largest crowd in the history of Newburyport road racing.
Race director Adam Benoit believes, with enough race-day registrations, the race that benefits the 1st Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund could draw a pool of runners that surpasses any of the 52 Yankee Homecoming 10-mile races.
While there is no official record for the largest race in Newburyport history, last year’s Yankee Homecoming 5K is believed to be the largest with 1,872 finishers. By comparison, last year’s Flag Day 5K had 1,030 finishers.
“We looked at how much the biggest race in Newburyport drew, and we might be able to break that race’s record,” Benoit said.
The Flag Day 5K, which will start at 6:30 p.m. at the North End Boat Club, has a special meaning for many local residents who knew Hines, a Newburyport native who was killed while serving as a 1st lieutenant in Afghanistan in 2004. The 1st Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund provides financial assistance to wounded or deceased Massachusetts soldiers and their families.
This year, Benoit offered free registration to any active member of the military, a perk that he attributes in part to the spike in registration. The recruitment class for Essex County Sheriff’s Department will run as a team. That class of 22 includes six active members of the military and two veterans.
Assistant Superintendent of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department Michael Frost said many members of the class have a personal connection to the Flag Day race.
“Certainly the military people realize they are with us but for the grace of God,” Frost said. “Each one of the soldiers knows people who were injured in theater. They’re fortunate they weren’t. The military is like law enforcement in the culture. You leave no one behind, and take care of each other like brothers and sisters. So this is personal for them.”