With approximately 7,000 runners and an estimated 40,000 spectators for the fireworks, It’s safe to say that the Harvard Pilgrim Finish at the 50 10K/5K and post-race fireworks are going to be around for a long time. Moving the race to the evening of July 3 from the morning of Independence Day, the race alone was double the size of the previous best.
In addition to the 10K course, a new 5K was added with a special twist. As the 10K runners began to make their way off stadium grounds towards North Street via the Putnam Way access road, the 5K runners kept going until they reached the Bank of America gate where things got interesting. The rest of the race took runners up the ramp of the stadium to the 300 level and back down on the ramp located near the Pro Shop. After running through the concourse on the 100 level, the runners made their way to the field down the back ramp behind the south end zone.
With both the 10K and 5K runners entering though the famous Patriots’ helmet as the team has done many times, the participants got to experience the thrill of running on to an NFL field with Patriots’ linebacker Jerod Mayo cheering at the finish line. With two different racing ending at the same time, things were a little crowded coming on to the field. Despite the tight finish, it was worth it just to finish the race in a way that is rarely duplicated.
“It was a gas. Fun times, perfect summer night, it’s unbelievable,” Mansfield resident and high school cross country coach Neil Levine said. “Just to have an opportunity to finish like this is so unique. Where else can you do this? So you don’t mind being crowded. It’s a crowded start and crowded finish but it’s a great course.”
In addition to the road races, a kids’ fun run was held during the afternoon. About 1,200 kids 12 and under were given the chance to take a lap around the Gillette Stadium field or a simple 50 yard sprint for the younger runners.
The night ended with a 20 minute firework display featuring music from Power 88.3 that was familiar to anyone who has been to a Patriots’ game. Starting with Crazy Train by Ozzy Osborne and ending with the Pats’ touchdown song This is Our House by Bon Jovi and For Those About to Rock by AC/DC, the display thrilled those in attendance and capped off an evening of family fun.
Crossing the line first in the 5K was Michael Giarkina of Lowell with a time of 17:27. In the 10K Mike Fisher of Brookline was the winner at 32:00. The first Mansfield resident to cross the line in the 5K was Nathaniel Sherman who placed 20th with a time of 20:18 while Bill Hess was the first hometown resident to finish the 10K an impressive fourth place finish and time of 34:31.