Bill and Pat Julianelle didn’t let distinct male and female starting lines separate them on Monday.
The Julianelles were among some 7,000 runners who signed up to participate in the 37th annual Faxon Law New Haven Labor Day Road Race—the first one to have separate gender-specific start lines.
Race coordinator John Bysiewicz said the change in the 5K race had men starting from Chapel and Temple Streets and the women lining up for the Star Spangled Banner, with the dramatic countdown, at Chapel and Church.
“The two 5K starts reduce congestion,” he explained. He described the change as one that will have zero to no enforcement: If people wanted to run together as families or couples, like the Julianelles (pictured), who have been married for 29 years and running together for the last ten, that was cool too.
Anecdotal evidence indicated that most people took the suggestion.
The gender streams merged, as do Temple and Church, on Whitney Avenue just above Trumbull Street in front of the New Haven Museum.
There were no other changes either to the 5K course or the 20K course, which this year, as usual, drew national champions and Olympians. Elite runners, like Monday’s one-two finishers among women in the 20K, Molly Huddle and Amy Hastings (pictured), always start at the head of the pack.
Rhode Island-based Huddle, who was victorious on her 30th birthday, finished in an hour, eight minutes, and 34 seconds, a five-minute and 31-second per -mile pace.
The men’s champ on Monday was Girma Mecheso (pictured), who crossed the finish line in a blistering 61 minutes and 26 seconds. Mayor Toni Harp held up the finishing banner for the first wave of elite finishers.
The change to the double-start in the 5K generally drew very favorable reviews from runners.
“The start of the race is always hectic,” said Mollie Quinn (aka bib# 5375), as she and her sister Brigid made their way to the female starting line at around 8:20 a.m. (Brigid was running in the 20K). “You’re [sometimes] concerned you’re going to trip,” Mollie said, so they praised a less congested start.
The Hamden-educated sisters, who now work at a Jesuit school in East Harlem, said that they had seen people hurt recently at the beginning of the Brooklyn Half marathon, run in Prospect Park, in which they both participated in in the spring.
As they stretched, two running friends, Carole Outlaw and Micki Von Ivester (pictured), who both work at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, agreed that reducing congestion is a good idea.
Did it have any effect on competition? “I’m more in competition with myself. I [simply] try to do better than the last race,” said Outlaw (left in photo). She finished the 5K in 35 minutes last year in New Haven and more recently in 30 minutes in another race in Cheshire. Her goal Monday: To do 30 minutes or less, whether men or only women were at the starting line with her.
Ivester differed a little: “You start off with women, you size them up. Women tend to be more competitive with each other.” She said she didn’t think it would effect her running in the end.
Meanwhile, over at the men’s starting line, recent Yale College grad Sue Li (pictured) was making herself “small,” she said.
That’s because there were very few other females in the crowd of men champing at the bit at the start line on Temple and Chapel Streets.
Li said she wanted to run with her friends, current students residing at Ezra Stiles College at Yale, but with only minutes to go before the race start still hadn’t yet made up her mind.
So, with the race announcer’s call for themen to go to Temple and “ladies to Chapel and Church,” Li decided to remain with the men at Temple Street. No one booted her out, as the race began.
Lots of girls from the New Haven Age Group Track Club (pictured) had seized the inside starting position at the female line.
The Great Merge
About five minutes later, at the triangle where the male and female streams merged, well, nothing dramatic appeared to be going on. Vinny Lopez and his 5-year-old son Enzo joined the groups of women jogging by without as much as noticing.
He was philosophical about the separate starts: “Usually the girls are slower. The guys think they’re going to win, but [after starting fast] they’re tired out by halfway through.”
Bob Goodman, 80, who had run New Haven’s first 27 20Ks and only switched to the 5K in recent years, slowed down a bit at Willow Street. He permitted a reporter to trail behind him.
“There’s my love,” he declared, detouring to the corner, where Connie Coppola gave him a smooch and encouragement. “She’s my right hand for 52 years,” he said, and then tore off to finish.
Of course some females go in for the free ride that comes their way when they’re 5years old and dad is much much taller and stronger and running beside them. Jim Dziura, of Cheshire, was providing a brief lift for his 5-year-old daughter Charlotte at about Sachem Street in the last half mile to the 5K finish.
He and his wife have four daughters; his wife and older kids likely had already already finished. It was the fourth year they have all been participating. He started the race among the females. “We do this as a family,” he said.
Then he lowered Charlotte, who ran ably beside her dad. The carry, along with a promised ice cream, are her favorite parts of the race, Dziura reported.
The 5K first finishers this year were, among the men, Cullen Roberts of Wallingford, who crossed the line at 15 minutes and 43 seconds; and among the women, Hannah Donadio of Killingworth, who finished in 18:55.