More than 1,000 runners took a scenic jog through Salisbury as part of the Winner's Circle Running Club's 31st annual April Fool's 4-Miler Saturday morning.
"It was great," said Nick Sousa, 28, of Salem, who finished second overall with a time of 20:43. "I did this a couple of years ago, and it was really well put on. It's a really nice race. Everyone was really supportive. It's nice to get flat courses when you can. I would come back to this — it was a lot of fun."
This year's race was estimated to be the biggest ever and is the first in the 4-3-2-1 Speed Series that includes Evelyn's Run For the Roses 5K, the Pat Polletta 2-Mile Road Race and the High Street Mile. The April Fool's Race benefitted the American Red Cross and the Alzheimer's Association, among other causes, and raised an estimated $30,000.
Pat Rich, 35, of South Hamilton won the men's division and Heather Searles, 29, of Haverhill won the women's.
The top three finishers in the men's division were Rich (20:33), Sousa (20:43) and Tim Vanorden (21:03). The top three for females were Searles (24:29), Simonetta Piergentil (25:10) and Emily Lafferty (25:26).
"We had 100, 150 more (people) this year," said race director and president of the Winner's Circle, Dale-Bob Eckert, as flakes of snow mixed in with the rain. "The weather was April Fool's. They said it was going to nice all week until yesterday. Now, today, it's not. April Fools.'"
"With the runners, you get out, you warm, you get out, you're done," said Eckert.
"There were a lot more people than we anticipated," said Vicki Miller, vice president of the Winner's Circle, who was also able to run the race as well as helping to run an event featuring 60 volunteers. "This is the most we've ever had. Running is in a big boom now, and we're reaping the benefits of that."
Carolyn Piwowar, 40, from Ayer was running her first 4-mile race with friends Jen Bresnahan, 33, of Arlington and Maureen Spencer, 30, of Lowell.
"It was awesome," Piwowar said of the vibe on the course. "Everyone was very encouraging. Lots of camaraderie on the course. Everyone was cheering each other on. It was beautiful."
Bresnahan herself was training for Boston's Run to Remember Half Marathon in May.
"I love it up here," said Bresnahan. "I don't come up a lot, and I like the atmosphere. The Winner's Circle was a lot of fun, and it helps when people are happy. It makes the race better."
Spencer was out for her first race as well.
"It was fabulous." said Spencer, who admitted that she spent most of the race gabbing with her friends. "I had a good audience for the first mile. I was telling a juicy story."
Two of the more colorful runners were Angela Eide, 42, from Stratham, N.H., and Hope Perreault, 42, from East Kingston, N.H., both of whom wore tutus for their run.
"It makes you feel good out there while you're running," Perreault said of her baby blue tutu. "It's fun. Everybody loves them."
"It's a great course," said Dale-Ann Eckert, 59, of Newburyport. "I really like it because it's kind of an optical illusion. I have the feeling that I'm running downhill on the way out and downhill on the way back, which makes you pick up your pace. It's a nice, fast course."
Not everyone loved the flat course, however.
"I don't like flat," said John Parker, 80, from Hampton Falls, N.H. "I love hills. The challenge of going up, and it's wonderful going down, because you're using different muscle groups."
Parker took first place in the 80-plus division and estimates that he has run 1,082 races as of the end of last year, averaging about 33 races each year.
"I love to win," said a jubilant Parker. "Who doesn't?"