In 1979, six hundred runners lined up for the first Shoreline Road Race (now Branford Road Race). Thanks to your help, the race has grown into one of the country’s biggest and best running events. Approximately 70,000 participants have participated in BRR events, hundreds of thousands of dollars distributed to various Branford organizations and charitable groups over the years. Yes, The Branford Road Race star has shone brightly as one of the premier road racing events in Connecticut and the nation.
At first glance it may seem odd that a small town on the Connecticut Shoreline would be home of one of the best running events in the nation and best in Connecticut. Since the first race, held in 1979 at the Branhaven Plaza, the Branford Road Race has grown from a small local fun run into one of the largest 5-Mile races in Connecticut. Despite this growth the race has remained an event to be enjoyed by the athletes who participate and the Branford Community. This low key, non-commercial event has become an integral part of the weekend long celebration of Branford Festival.
In 1979 two good friends Ray Figlewski and Dick Wainman started the 7.5 Mile Shoreline Road Race, which later became the 5-Mile Branford Road Race. The precipitous of the race was to accomplish four goals: 1. Establish a national caliber road race with the special focus on and concern for the runner who participates, 2. Provide an event that not only weaves through one of the most beautiful shorelines in Connecticut, but also to utilize the historical charm of Branford Green, 3. An event, in which the entire Branford community could not only participate in, but is proud of, and 4. Provide opportunities for an event to support and promote a healthy lifestyle in town. For those of you who were not old enough to remember 1979, you might be interested to know that at this time, running was not a wildly popular sport and most running events were geared to small groups of serious participants. However, the running boom of the late 1970′s was beginning to sweep the country. Inspired by the Olympic successes of marathon runner Frank Shorter and the writings of fitness authors Dr. Kenneth Cooper and George Sheehan., more and more Americans were lacing up their sneakers (they weren’t even called running shoes back then) and taking to the streets. For everyone who has participated in the Branford Road Race I’m sure you are happy that Ray and Dick had this insight.
Although the first year was held at the Branhaven Plaza, Ray and Dick continued to look at ways they could move the race to the Branford Green, which would satisfy their second goal, “provide an event that not only weaves through one of the most beautiful shorelines in Connecticut, but also to utilizes the historical charm of the Branford Green. That goal came to fruition in year 2. And from 1980 until now, 34 years later the Branford Road Race has started and finished on the Town Green where it continues to be the pride of Branford.
In 1985 the Branford Road Race teamed up with the newly founded Branford Festival to create a three-day event, which has bought the people of Branford together. With the vision and assistance of then first selectman Judy Gott Ray accomplished his goal of
having his event help bring all of Branford together. Many of our current residents do not know Branford without the Branford Festival and The Branford Road Race.
Today the race is 5-Miles, just short of the 7.5-Mile race that it was so many years ago. The race committee wanting to be inclusive and true to its goals in 1979 now includes a 2-Mile Health Walk and a 1-Mile Fun Run, along with the 5-Mile Run. Both, the 1-Mile and 5-Mile race is USATF certified and timed.
In 1997 John Bysiewicz, Branford resident and owner of JB Sports, was hired as a paid race coordinator. John’s expertise and involvement has been indispensable in helping the race grow with the same local flavor, that Ray and Dick set out to accomplish in 1979, while at the same time keeping the race an extremely competitive, well run national caliber event.
The original sponsors in 1979 included, American Health and Fitness, WELI, Branford Savings Bank and Raymond’s and Connecticut Associates (now HD Segur). We continue to cherish the relationship we have with our sponsors today. Many of whom have supported our efforts over many years, H.D. Segur (35 years), Sound Runner, Stratton Faxon, Pasta Cosi, Planet Fitness, Chabaso Bakery, Connecticut Orthopaedic Specialists, Shoreline Crossfit, Muscle and Joint Performance Chiropractic, 66 North Main Massage, The Sound, WPLR and our newest sponsors for 2014 Brandfon Honda and Amity Physical Therapy.
Keeping to our mission to have a positive impact in the Branford community, it was decided in 2006 to take it to the next level and provide a platform for individuals to contribute and support local charities that impact local citizens and the Branford community. We are proud to report that thousands of dollars have been raised to support their efforts. This year we will be partnering with the following charities: the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (which has affected many people worldwide, but also in our community), BHcares The Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence (formerly Harbor Health of Branford), and the Branford Counseling Center Basic Needs Program. If you want to run and make a difference, follow the links on our home page for “Support a Charity.”
The reasons behind over 3 decades of success are many, but one is preeminent: this is an event that enjoys the support from every corner of Branford. From the hundreds of residents who run or who volunteer or sponsor, to the support the race receives from the governing body and the personnel of the police, fire, first aid and town maintenance departments, this is a town project. These people come together and provide thousands of runners with a friendly and well-managed event. The Branford Road Race is known for the fabulous support of thousands of cheering spectators proving once again that Branford is a special place.