“Welcome to the Stockade! We love you guys!” Donna Lagone of North Street called out to the pack of runners huffing past the corner of North and Front streets.
In her hands was a big red sign that said, “Run, James, Run!” And at her feet was another that said, “Welcome Runners.” She was there to cheer on her son, but had words of encouragement for everyone who ran past her street during the Gazette Stockade-athon Sunday morning.
“We want the people to know when they’re running through the Stockade that we really appreciate this. We really appreciate the runners and the things that go on here,” she said.
According to race director Vince Juliano, a record 1,859 runners registered for the 37th annual 15k race, which started and ended in Central Park.
“The runners get to go out and run through the streets of Schenectady and see the historic parts, the neighborhoods and some of these people that are running now, their parents ran this race 25 years ago,” he said.
More on the race
Thompson tops record field of 1,859 (with video). Click here.
Women's race winner may be Olympian (with video). Click here.
Race notebook: Dana Bush, a former champion, returns with promising young runners — her own. Click here.
A link to the list of all race finishers, via the Albany Running Exchange. Click here.
The runners also got to bask in the enthusiasm brought to the streets by all sorts of fans, who came out on the mild Sunday morning to express their support.
Right before race time, Doreen Hornyak gathered up her four grandchildren in the driveway of her Bradley Boulevard home. Despite the light drizzle, they were ready to take the short walk to Central Park, which was packed with runners awaiting the starting gun.
Hornyak and the kids made up a mini cheering section for their daughter-in-law and mom, Stacia Smith of Schenectady, who has run in the race for years.
Smith had her number pinned on and was on her way to the starting line.
“It’s local. It’s just a nice race to run. It’s like a tradition,” she said.
Setting the beat
On the corner of Foster Avenue and Nott Street, Eric “E-Rock” Griffin of Schenectady was looking dapper in a lime green dress shirt, brown leather vest and tan shorts. He sat behind a full drum set, ready to add some extra percussion to the beat of the runners’ feet, as he’s done for 10 Stockade-athons in a row.
“It was a smash the first time I came out and it’s been a smash ever since,” the 59-year-old said, punctuating his point with a quick riff. “The people, they love me! Everybody’s clapping and giving me thumbs because they’re tired when they get down here and then when I get playing drums, it picks them up a little bit,” he said, a huge smile on his face.
A bit farther along on the route, Chuck Bradt sat on the stoop of his home at 226 Front St. in jeans, a black sweatshirt, and a black fedora, strumming his Fender Stratocaster, waiting for the first of the runners to pass by.
“It’s just something I’ve been doing for years,” he said simply. “It’s always fun watching the guys come by here.”
Across the street, Gerald Plante set up a table loaded with Gatorade and water for the runners. The back of his Jeep was open and the radio was playing loud. He was looking in the direction of Nott Street, sure there would be runners coming into sight at any minute.
Plante said he’s not an official race volunteer, but has taken it upon himself to provide refreshment to the runners as they enter the Stockade.
“I was a long distance runner at one time and I know by mid-point, they’re going to need a drink, and they do. This goes quick,” he said, gesturing at the bottles lined up neatly on the table.
A few blocks down from Plante’s hydration station, a white banner that read “Halfway” hung next to the statue of Lawrence the Indian. A small crowd gathered there to cheer on the runners. Hands clapped, bells rang, and at the foot of the statue, a little band played. Concetta, 3, solemnly played a shaker, while her brother Tianning, 5, jubilantly beat a drum and second brother Hainuo, 4, blew enthusiastically into an antique car horn that was missing its black rubber bulb. Tom Hodgkins of Schenectady, band leader and father of the young musicians, was shaking a tambourine.
“It’s just a really joyous event to have the runners running, the whole community coming down and cheering them on. We had fun last year and when I reminded them the race was today, they were very excited to come down and help cheer the runners on,” he said, smiling at his merry little musicians.
Snuggled together on a stoop across the street were Stockade residents Flori and Erich Bachmeyer and their 1-year-old son, Luke. Even though it was his first time cheering on Stockade-athon runners, Luke already had the whole process down to a science. He smiled, clapped and even called out, “Yay!”