“In the past five or 10 years, the complexion of the race has changed,” said Pearson of the Lions Club. “The race used to attract so many fast Kenyans and Ethiopians living in the United States. Now, it’s families. That’s the growth area we’ve seen in recent years. It’s parents running with children, and groups of kids that run together.”
Although the 5K has overtaken the 10-mile race in terms of popularity, it’s not as if the 10-mile race is on the verge of extinction. Last year’s race actually drew 118 more runners than the previous year, which could be partially attributed to the more favorable running conditions.
The heat is historically a major factor in the 10-mile race, which is part of the reason Hennigar has decided to pass on the race in recent years.
“It’s the time of year in August or late July,” Hennigar said. “Running 10 miles is not easy, and the heat is a huge factor. There have been plenty of 90-degree nights throughout the years. There’s a big difference between a 10-mile training run and a race. I train in the morning before the heat of the day. You can’t change the time of day a race is scheduled.”
Off the top of his head, Hennigar could not think of a single Newburyport alumnus over the years who made the 10-mile race a high priority in his or her training and competition schedule. Competitive high school and college runners begin racing as early as late August, so it is not sufficient recovery time if the 10-mile race takes place on a particularly hot night. Even competitive runners who have graduated from college often target a fall cross-country or road race and have little interest in running an all-out 10-mile race in such close proximity to their peak performance.