Downtown Schenectady was buzzing with anticipation on Sunday morning as hundreds of runners took off from the starting line to participate in one of the oldest road races in the country, the Stockade-athon 15k.
Thousands of people from the Capital Region and beyond lined the streets along the route to support family and friends who were running in the race. The course, which starts at the corner of Lafayette and State streets, passes by both Union College and Schenectady High School before ending in the vicinity of Clinton Street next to City Hall.
While the course has remained mostly the same over the last few years, this year's competitors were warned ahead of time about possible tripping hazards on Front Street in the city's Stockade section. Since roadwork hadn't wrapped up before the event, race organizers marked hazardous areas so that runners could avoid them and injuries during the race.
This year's cash prizes totaled $7,875 in two categories: local and all-comers. There were 1,409 runners in total this year said Michelle Golden of MVP Healthcare, which sponsored the race.
The Stockade-athon consistently brings in runners of all skill levels and ages and Sunday's race was no different. Participants ranged from 15 to 80 years old and they came in from all over the Northeast, including Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.
According to a number of runners, the weather for Sunday's race was considered to be the best it had been in years, with mostly clear skies and a dry course.
"It's absolutely better than last year, weather-wise," said Tim O'Connolly, of Colonie after he had finished the race and was heading to meet his family, who came to support him. "I just wore shorts today, it was so nice out."
The Stockade-athon also serves as more than just a race. With hundreds of people watching and waiting for family members, many make their way into the nearby cafes and shops on Jay Street while they wait for the runners to reach the finish line, and the racers themselves flood the streets adjacent to the course after they've finished the race.
Daryl Parkins of Clifton Park was waiting in the Happy Cappuccino coffee shop with his wife, Meghan, and two young daughters after the race to warm up and grab an energy boost.
"After a race like that, in the cold, there's nothing better than a coffee to warm you up. It brings me back to life too, usually," he said.
Many runners compete in the Stockade-athon as a tradition each year, seeing it as a solid and slightly challenging yet enjoyable race during the running season. For others who aren't seasoned runners or who might have taken a few years off from either the race or from running in general, it's a bigger deal.
"You did it, Sally!" yelled Rita Compren of Scotia, who was watching her longtime friend Sally Wright compete in the race. Wright, 64, who said that she had not done the race in a few years due to injuries, said at the end after she left the course that the run had pushed her to the limit, but that it had been worth it.
"That's right, I did it. And I didn't think I could," she said, smiling with her commemorative t-shirt.