Wow, I can’t believe it was only yesterday I ran the Boilermaker 15-K in Utica, NY!
Although I attended the race after graduating from high school, this 35th annual showcase was my first time “running Utica.” I had an absolute blast—talk about a 9.3-mile party!
Saturday – Boilermaker Expo
On Saturday afternoon, I picked up my friend Sara from the Utica bus/train station, and we went to the expo. Held at Mohawk Valley Community College, this Boilermaker kickoff event allowed the sold-out race crowd (14,000 entered the 15-K and 11,360 finished) to pick up their race bibs and “swag bags.”
In addition to registration logistics, more than 70 vendors set up tables, including booths for the Turning Stone Races and The Mighty Run, a obstacle/adventure race held in Utica. Sara and I were all about loading up on free samples, and some of my favorites included Larabar and Chobani stops.
For an afternoon snack, I tried this Vanilla Chocolate Chunk, and it was really good!
It tasted sweet—more like a dessert—and I would definitely have it again.
Saranac, a local brewery and another official sponsor, also had a tent. Although I was tempted to “carbo”-load on beer, I figured it would taste much more refreshing after running 9.3 miles. Gulp!
Sunday – Boilermaker 15-K
A 4 a.m.-wakeup call started race-day, and my dad, Sara, and I left the house around 5:30 a.m. It takes about an hour to get to Utica, and we picked up a few fellow runners on the way.
Because so many people participate in the Boilermaker, the race utilized staggered corral starts based on each runner’s estimated finishing time. (During online registration, each runner had to specify their estimated overall time.)
Even though my bib was steel blue—I calculated my estimated time using 8:30 splits, I think—I stayed in the gold corral to run with Sara. We didn’t have a goal-time or target pace; for us, the race was all about having fun and taking full advantage of the “party in the middle of the pack.”
The best way to see a city is by foot, and the racecourse weaved through the streets of Utica. By passing through neighborhoods and local hot spots, the runners became familiar with the city. This 9.3-mile route promised a bit of everything—rolling hills, one somewhat steep climb, refreshing declines, and fast straight-aways. Overall, the course felt relatively flat and fast; it would’ve been neat to run the race for time (there’s always next year!), and I bet it’s common for runners to set 15-K PR’s at the Boilermaker.
The Boilermaker is what it is—a 15-K party run—because of the awesome volunteers, fans, and spectators. Along every twist, turn, hill, you name it, friendly people camped out to watch, cheer, clap, and hold up signs. The energy from the fans was contagious, and I couldn’t help smiling, laughing, and cheering right back! Honestly, I think I was grinning like an idiot the entire time because I was so happy. A lot fans sprayed runners with hoses and handed out freezer pops, too. As if the energetic spectators weren’t enough, every mile contained at least one DJ booth or big-time boom box that blasted music, and there were also live, local artists playing along the course. Everyone—from the fans to the volunteers to the EMS workers—were super encouraging and supportive. The 9.3 miles went by too quickly!
Sara and I didn’t run the race competitively—our official time was a leisurely 1:43—but we had so much fun! After eating some orange slices, we embarked on a new quest—finding beer! Ha.
Definitely well deserved. We sipped our beers while stretching out, and then we went to search for food. Although each runner’s bib comes equipped with a “lunch” tab—you tear it off and hand it in to get a bagged lunch—there were no more bagged lunches. What the heck? Luckily, we were able to track down bananas, water, and Chobani yogurt.
Hands down, the Boilermaker 15-K is one of the top two races I’ve ever run. After the frustration I experienced on Wednesday, this festive and fun run was exactly what I needed. There was no pressure to perform, and there were no problems with my calves; by scaling down my efforts and completing the race with a friend, I remembered why I run and why I love to run. Between the lively atmosphere and enthusiastic fans, the Boilermaker was one big party! I highly recommend running if you can—I know I will next year.