Bright and early last Saturday morning at Sports Club, Chautauquans gathered for one of the Institution’s most cherished traditions: The Old First Night Run/Walk.
Since the event’s inception in 1977, hundreds of participants have flooded in from every corner of the United States to join in the fun. Now in its 43rd year, the OFN Run/Walk continues to grow, this year drawing 624 racers.
Participants were organized along the road before the start, and at the sound of a horn, Chautauquans sprinted, jogged and walked through the course. Some participated as solo runners and some brought partners, children, babies or even dogs along with them.
Finishing the 2.75-mile run in first place with a 15-minute and 4-second time was Adam Cook, and following in second was Alex Spiro, who are both Allegheny College cross country runners. After finishing and taking some time to hydrate and recuperate, Cook said this run wasn’t too much of a challenge for them.
“We’re high mileage runners, we’re used to 50-70-mile (weekly running), so this isn’t too bad,” Cook said. “This is shorter than our usual competitions, but I knew the hill was going to be hard, so I started off slow and climbed the hill to maintain my pace.”
Spiro said they anticipated the steep hill on the south end of the grounds, due to the training regimen they chose; to run the course on a loop before last Saturday’s race.
“In general, we knew all the surprises that were coming up,” Spiro said. “We knew where the highest elevation was and were able to plan accordingly, but coming back down the hill isn’t as easy. You need to let loose and open your stride more coming down the hill to keep from injuring yourself, and it’s just enough to give us some energy coming down to finish.”
Cook also said he is familiar with the course, since he has been coming to Chautauqua with his parents and grandparents for years.
This is something Deb Lyons, director of Sports Club said makes the OFN Run/Walk so popular year after year.
“This is a tradition, this race,” Lyons said. “You’ll find out this race has inspired people in so many different ways. Not only do some huge families have 20 people sign up every year, but generations of families do it. People have juggled this course last year, juggling it and running it. People keep coming because it is a tradition for them.”
Taking the prize for the oldest participant was Bud Horne at 94 years old, and a few boys and girls, only a few months old, tied for the youngest Chautauquans to finish the race. But no matter the time they received or their age, these Chautauquans continued the tradition of care and support during the OFN Run/Walk.