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Fairfield County Runners Stretch Buildup Capacity

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – The Boston Buildup running series concludes Sunday with a 25-kilometer run scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at Silvermine Elementary School in Norwalk.

As the series wraps up its 34th year, race director Jim Gerweck faces is faced with the question: Are the events getting too popular? In every race this year, the number of finishers escalated, some of them dramatically. In the 10K in January, there were 418 finishers, compared with 362 last year.

“That was the biggest race I've ever had,’’ Gerweck said. “Even bigger than the 4 on the 4th (of July) in New Canaan. I've never had a race with over 400 runners before.”

Sunday’s forecast seems favorable again for runners, who have been blessed with ideal conditions most of the winter. Gerweck postponed the 15K one week because of slippery conditions, and it worked out perfectly. He expects another record field for Sunday’s race at parking-challenged Silvermine School.

“To some extent, there’s some degree of concern that it doesn't get too big,’’ Gerweck said. “At some point, we’ll reach an optimal size. We changed the location of the 20K because it was just overwhelming the facilities and it worked well. This weekend will be a challenge with the parking, but it hasn't been a problem in the past. People have been able to figure it out. I don’t know if you want to get so big that you can’t put on a good event. It’s kind of a balancing act.”

In addition to increased numbers in the 10K, there were 40 more finishers in the 15K and 20 more in the 20K.

“We could get around 250 this weekend, which is 100 less than we've been averaging,’’ Gerweck said. “But that would still be a record by about 20 or so.”

The weather is partly responsible for the surge in runners. Other factors include the popularity of marathons, which also has swelled. Many are in the spring, and the races provide a training outlet for runners preparing for marathons in April and May. The races also among the few competitive outlets for runners in winter.

“We started this 34 years ago because there was nothing in the winter,’’ Gerweck said. “There’s still a bunch of weekends where there’s nothing going on. People like to get out and race, and they enjoy the company of the other runners.”

The additional runners strain the capacity of the facilities where the events are located, and the longer races require additional manpower for cleanup.

Sunday’s race also will decide the series championship in the men’s and women’s divisions. Will McDonough of New Canaan has a less than 100-point lead on Tim Milenkevich. Anja Krieger-Redwood has a commanding lead in the women’s division. Points are accumulated based on results.

Information about the series is available at clubct.org. Runners can preregister online or at the race site. Numbers also can be picked up in advance at the Runner’s Roost in Darien.

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