Why Runners Love Oneida County

Mary Wacera wins women's 2018 Boilermaker 15kOneida County is made for runners. Whether you want to jog along city sidewalks, sprint down rural roads, or scramble up steep trails, you’ll find it here. The running community is tight-knit and local residents love to come out and show their support on race days. Here are some of the area’s most popular races.

Boilermaker Road Race

You only have to witness Utica’s Boilermaker once to understand what community support is. Spectators line the streets along the route, cheering the runners, providing live music, and often giving that last little nudge of encouragement that’s sometimes needed to cross the finish line. Luckily, that finish line lands runners at Saranac Brewery, scene of the Saranac Post Race Party. You and 40,000 revelers can grab a beer, enjoy live entertainment, and even see an exciting flyover of military jets. A 5K race and a wheelchair race are also part of the day’s activities. The Boilermaker has been a beloved community event for more than 40 years.

Pirate 5K Rum Runner

Every summer, pirate lovers don their best black hats and eye patches for a fun 5K run/walk through the lakeside village of Sylvan Beach. The race is just one of the events at Pirate’s Weekend, an annual celebration that features live music, treasure hunts, and bonfires on the beach. The entire weekend involves fun for the whole family. Race participants are allowed to bring their dogs and strollers along, and pirate costumes are encouraged. Proceeds benefit Sitrin’s Military Rehabilitation Program. 

Honor America Days Parade Run

This event in the heart of Rome is Oneida County’s oldest road race. The 5K run begins at 8:30 a.m. and paves the way for the annual Honor America Days Parade, which starts shortly afterwards at 10:00 a.m., following the same route. The celebration, which is sponsored by the Rome Chamber of Commerce, continues in the evening at Fort Stanwix National Monument with live music, the firing of cannons, and a fireworks display. 

Falling Leaves Road Race

Another Utica favorite, this takes place in early fall, when the summer heat has relented, and the smell of autumn leaves is in the air. The 14K run begins on Genesee Street and takes runners uphill along the Parkway. From there, the course turns onto pretty Valley View Road, and then heads to the scenic paths of Roscoe Conkling Park. The middle miles involve some challenging inclines, but the course eventually evens out. In addition to the 14K, events include a 5K Wheelchair Race, a 5K, and a Kid’s Kilometer Fun Run. 

Daniel Barden Mudfest

The Mudfest was organized to pay tribute to Daniel Barden, a Sandy Hook Elementary first grader who was killed in 2012. To honor Daniel’s life, the event’s main goal is to inspire people to live their lives to the fullest. At Mudfest, that means splashing around in mud pits, crawling through tunnels, and scaling walls, all the while bonding with everyone else attempting to overcome the same obstacles. The first event took place in Deansboro in 2013 and continues to grow every year.

The above races are a ton of fun to either watch or participate in. Oneida County also has some wonderful running communities if you’re looking to join one. Try the Utica Road Runners or the Roman Runners. For a complete listing of Upstate New York’s races, see CNYRunning.com.

Upcoming races:

Pirate 5K Rum Runner: July 22, 2018
Honor America Days Parade Run: July 28, 2018
Falling Leaves Road Race: September 23, 2018
Daniel Barden Mudfest: April 27, 2019

By Michele DeBella