Now that Runnin’ of the Green is a few days passed, here’s a recap of its recent history and how it changed for 2019!
According to a January 14, 2019 Democrat and Chronicle article, “John Savino, former owner of Johnny’s Irish Pub on Culver Road, was lead sponsor of the race for 20 years. He stepped in in 1998 to carry on what was then called the Shamrock Run. Savino closed Johnny’s in September but the pub reopened with the same name under new ownership.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if the race would continue. There was talk in multiple running circles as to the future of the race. Had anyone planned to take it over? Did anyone know of anyone who would be interested? Is it the end? As the article put it, Johnny’s, short for the former name, Johnny’s Runnin’ of the Green, had been “Rochester’s annual St. Patrick’s Day 5-mile road race and excuse to party.” Its demise would have been a noticeable loss for the community.
Like others, GRTC was concerned about what would happen to the iconic race. We learned that Bill Kehoe was going to direct the race as he had in the past, that he had a plan in motion for sponsorship, and that Jonathan Griffiths of Rochester Running Company (RRC) ownership was going to work with him on the race. By December, GRTC had it on the Rochester Runner of the Year 2019 roster. In January, the same D & C article announced that YMCA would be the lead sponsor.
Behind the scenes, among other things, Carolyn Kriesen, who handles the RROY Series, noted that Griffiths and RRC helped Kehoe with securing sponsorships, spearheaded the debut 1-miler, complete with a finisher’s medal, and made packet pick-up available for three days at RRC with free and easy parking. Race day saw Griffiths announcing incoming finishers and the awards as well as wrapping up with PCR Timing Service and RRC staff and volunteers.
Putting it all in perspective, the race went from being in question in September of 2018 after decades of existence under a couple of names to kicking off St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as normal, but with significant changes, in just six months. Results from PCR going back to 2012 show ups and downs in attendance, from 2,304 finishers that year when timeanddate.com shows temperatures were unseasonably warm in the 60s to steadily declining to 1,387 in 2015 with more characteristic weather. After edging up in 2016, 2017 saw attendance plummet to under 900 participants, possibly due to temps of below 20° for race day. Last year, it was back to just shy of 2015 numbers, topping out at 1,331. That brings us to this year where 1,156 participants finished the traditional 5-mile race and another 62 tried out the new 1-miler with registration having opened sometime after mid-December.
Other notables from the 2019 version include RRC offering training and providing free pacers, YMCA having free games, beer being offered onsite on tap, and Mark Andrews, at 48 years of age, becoming the oldest person to win the race. With so little time to make the race happen this year, the race organizers are hinting at an even better experience for 2020 with an entire year to prepare. Save the date: March 14, 2020!