Most likely, the winner of the Gazette Stockade-athon 15k on Sunday will be much younger than the race itself.
The Stockade-athon is celebrating its 35th anniversary this weekend and is unofficially the oldest “major” 15k road race in the country.
Race director Vince Juliano is expecting the Stockade-athon to take another run at its record for participation, after drawing about 1,500 entries last year and 1,268 finishers, breaking that mark for the second year in a row.
From humble beginnings, the Stockade-athon has grown into one of the most important dates on the road racing calendar in the Capital Region, attracting not only big fields, but also runners of distinction and national-caliber ability.
The race has strong appeal for recreational runners because the field always has excellent talent, the race has a rich history and the course is interesting and challenging.
For instance, Fernando Cabada, the U.S. record holder in the 25k, last year used the Stockade-athon as one of the races on his schedule during a comeback from injury and an attempt to regain standing as one of the promising marathoners in the country.
He won, but had to hold off Jordan Davis, a former Division I runner for Auburn and Syracuse universities.
This year, the women’s field will include Emily Bryans of Schenectady, one of the best masters distance runners in the U.S.
Other top names who have graced the Stockade-athon include Bill Rodgers, Tom Dalton, Barry Brown, Jerry Lawson, Lori Hewig, Denise Herman and Ellen Weglarz.
Since an age-graded component was added, the race has drawn such world-caliber runners as five-time age-graded winner Ed Whitlock of Canada, who broke another single-age world record this fall when averaged a 7:12-mile pace at the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon at the age of 79.
Like the Freihofer’s Run for Women, the Stockade-athon, which was named New England Runner magazine’s 2005 “Race of the Year,” offers runners of all abilities the chance to run against elite-caliber athletes over a difficult, but fair, course.
The 15k distance is not very common in the U.S., and the Stockade-athon course in particular is unique because it uses mostly city streets, whereas many new races nowadays attempt to take advantage of bike paths and roadways closed to traffic to lessen the logistical burden on race organizers.
The Stockade-athon starts and finishes in Central Park, turning around in the Stockade.
What that presents is a very fast first half of the course, which follows a long downhill on Nott Street past Ellis Hospital and Union College.
After covering Front Street and Washington Avenue in the Stockade, where the course is redolent of the city’s history, the Stockade-athon begins the grueling return to Central Park via State Street, passing many city landmarks along the way.
The runners will pass Proctors Theater on their way up the difficult Street Street hill to Nott Terrace, but the fun is just beginning, as there is a gentler, but longer, incline waiting there.
The field turns left into Vale Cemetery and faces another steep hill on Bradley Street before re-entering the park.
The long run around Iroquois Lake, in full view of what is always a large and appreciative crowd, is one of the most exhilarating finishes in the area.
The race will begin at 9 a.m., and results will be tabulated using the Albany Running Exchange’s chip timing.
There is no day-of-race registration, so runners are encouraged to sign up at the Healthy Living Expo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Robb Alley in Proctors Theater on Saturday.
Admission and parking are free for the Expo.