Established in 1977
I’m sure that it would bring a tear to Joe Concannon’s eye to know that his beloved race, the race he put together with Billy Neller and a group of his best friends from Litchfield, begins another year and is still going strong. Joe wanted a vehicle to bring his out of town running friends together with his hometown friends and thus the Litchfield Hills Road Race was born.
Based on the famous race in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the Litchfield Hills Road Race course was plotted, runners were invited, volunteers were um, recruited (or shanghaied?) beer was put on ice and in 1977 the first Litchfield Hills Road Race was underway. One of the most exceptional things about this small town race is that a Bill Rodgers and an Ovidio DeRubertis can run the same course at the same time and receive equal measures of appreciation from the fans who line the streets and who have, from day one, made this race loved by those who are sweating out the seven and then some mile course.
The history of the race just unfolds from there. The race got bigger, more volunteers were needed, more planning was necessary, more Litchfield families opened up their homes to runners, and deep, long-lasting friendships were forged between people who, if not for Joe, would never have met one another.
LHRR has seen runners from all over the world, representing Ireland, New Zealand, Kenya, Great Britain, Belgium, Tanzania, Canada, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Poland and more, keeping pace with some of our more famous American runners, including Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit, Dave Dunham, Randy Thomas, Patti Catalano and Vin Fleming to name a few and of course some of our infamous Litchfield runners, such as Rick Evangelisti, David Driscoll, Father Tucker, the Hound, Paula Brunetto, The Hawk, Bill Sivhra, always several McKenna’s; the list is endless.
The exciting battles that have been witnessed over the years for top finishers are legendary; the pre-race, race day and after-race parties and stories that spin off of those get-togethers are even more legendary. The buzz starts when the daffodils begin to bloom in early spring – stories are taken out of the closet, brushed off and are told and re-told, and there are whispers of John Clock sightings. . As late May rolls around, more and more runners are visible in White’s Woods, training for the big day. It’s kind of like when the swallows return to Capistrano…..
Race day brings something different for everyone. For some, it is the culmination of months (and in some cases weeks or days!) of training. For others, it is taking the time to man a water station or a mile marker or a fire truck. And for many, it is a time to pick a spot on the course and marvel at the thousand plus runners who have what it takes to get out there and give it their best. And for all, it is a glorious reunion of friendships. Litchfield Hills Road Race is known to many as the Friendship Race, a very fitting name indeed.
The Race is rich with traditions ….the firing of the cannon by the First Litchfield Artillery, the “Hill”, the barricade brigade, the infamous line from Bill Rodgers, “I had to go into ninth gear” referring to his trek up Gallows Lane, Dave Skoneiczny calling the runners to post, the Surviving Souls (those who have run every race), our town constable leading the pack of runners down Meadow Street, the Village, the bands that line the course, the flags hanging uptown that represent the countries of past winners, the welcoming encouragement from marshals, the pink flamingos of our dearly departed marshals George Dwan and Roberta Coffill-Healy's at Road Race Park, and of course the wonderful spectators, encouraging the runners every step of the way.
In the words of Jean Evangelisti, “…the festivities, hospitality and friendships that are the trademarks of race weekend give you something that borders on magical.” There have been so many who have kept this magic alive over the years, those dedicated to keeping the original flavor and homegrown feel of the race, carrying on the traditions of those before them.
Joe Concannon's dream of bringing all his friends together in one place on one special day began it all. Years later we are still running that dream. Thank you, Joe.