Newburyport High cross-country coach Don Hennigar wants his athletes to train vigorously over the summer, but even he has to draw the line at the Yankee Homecoming 10-Mile Road Race.
“I encourage them not to run the 10-miler,” Hennigar said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I like them to race a couple of times in the summer to break up the training situation, but I did this race for years, and I finally stopped over the last couple of years. If you’re trying to get ready for something in the fall, this race can trash you for weeks.”
Hennigar’s findings may best explain why the annual Yankee Homecoming Road Race, sponsored by Provident Bank, has evolved from strictly a 10-mile race 54 years ago to a competitive 10-mile race with a 5K option for less fit runners 15 years ago, to what it is now — a more heavily attended 5K with an option for a 10-mile race for distance runners. Participation numbers in the 5K hit an all-time high last year when 1,872 runners crossed the line, compared to 1,397 in the 10-mile race. Race director Jon Pearson believes this year’s 5K could draw as many as 2,000 runners.
“I’m expecting close to what we had last year,” Pearson said. “Certainly, this could be the best year to date.”
When the race started in 1960, there was no 5K option, so 30 local runners competed in the 10-mile race, kicking off the longstanding Yankee Homecoming tradition. Some time in the late 1980s or early 1990s, the 5K option was added, but that didn’t take away from the popularity of the 10-mile race. In the mid-1990s, the 10-mile race drew as many as 2,200 runners, while 5K numbers came in around 1,000.
By 2002, the 5K participation numbers started approaching those of the 10-mile race, as 1,535 finished the longer race compared to 1,236 for the 3.1-mile run. In 2007, the 5K became the more popular race with 1,420 finishers compared to 1,279 for the 10-mile.