By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
The Walpole Labor Day Road Race is a long-standing tradition in town; on a morning when most people are sleeping in and resting at home, this little slice of Norfolk County is awake and ready to race. Almost half a century old, the road race sees hundreds of runners of all ages taking their spots at the starting line each year. This Monday, September 6, runners again returned for 2021's iteration.
There were three separate races held on Labor Day. A one-mile fun run, a 5K, and a 10K. Each one had its own starting line where runners waited to begin. Despite a predicted rainy day, the weather held out for all three races, allowing runners to get through their races without being inundated. Runners who felt safer to social distance opted for the virtual 5K and 10k races instead of joining the festivities near Walpole High School.
The races started with the one-mile Fun Run for some of the younger participants. Despite their young age, these kids were more than ready to take on the mile. The starting horn blew at 9 a.m., sending the kids running as a police motorcade led the race. Just six minutes and 17 seconds later, Walter Stock of Mansfield made his way across the finish line. Sebastian Miller of Walpole made it over just a second later. Eshe Stockton came in third at 6 minutes and 42 seconds.
The annual road race is often the first race in which local kids take part. Peter and Thomas Cleary, brothers from Walpole, ran in the one-mile race together before making their way to the sidelines to support their mom in the 5K. “I wanted to be competitive and I think I’m a good runner, honestly,” said Peter.
After over a year of the pandemic and one of the rainiest summers on record, participants were eager to hit the pavement. Sisters Amelia and Annie Beitelspache ran the one-mile with their mom, Lauren, for the first time. “Getting to run was the best part of today,” said Amelia.
“It’s fun when it’s done,” joked Lauren. “It’s so fun to just be doing something, [to] have an event seem normal, and it’s just nice to be outside enjoying a beautiful day and supporting the community.”
After 48 years, the Walpole Labor Day Road Race is not only a tradition of running, but supporting participants. Those with houses along the route sat outside, cheering for the runners. Other supporters held signs with encouraging messages to help participants finish their races, while volunteers had placed signs around the route.
A half hour later, runners lined up for the 5K. People on the sidelines were still vibrating with support. Kids who had run in 1-mile race were back, this time to cheer on their parents. The first runners in lead for the 5K shocked observers. “He’s going to finish in almost 17 minutes. That’s about as good as it gets,” said one stunned watcher. Those crossing the finish line were welcomed with enthusiasm, with names being chanted and an announcer noting their time and previous records. “Go, Mom, go!” screamed two kids as ran on the side walk as their mom finished her race.
Jack Collins (17:25), Nathan Coogan (17:35), and Scott Cameron of Walpole (18:28) were the top male runners of this year’s 5K. Aileen Keogh (20:20), Cara Morris of Walpole (23:12), and Cate Stanton of Walpole (23:12) were the top female runners of the 5K. The 10K had Tyler Opdycke (33:19), Brendan Medeiros (35:22), and Aristides Cruz (36:58) taking the lead, while Mary Beth Cashman (43:17), Lauren Leslie (43:28), and Maureen Larkin of Walpole (47:31) were the top female runners of the race. Lauren Leslie beat her first place (for the female division) time for 2019’s race by over two minutes.
This year’s race was a reminder that things are slowly but surely returning to normal. While some things will change as a result of the pandemic, it's comforting to know that traditions as old and solid as Walpole’s Labor Day Road Race will continue year after year, no matter what.