NORWALK, Conn. – Temperatures in the low 40s and a gentle breeze greeted runners in Norwalk Sunday for the 35th annual rite of winter recreation, the opening leg of the Boston Buildup running series.
Nearly 400 contestants ran the 10-kilometer course that rolls through Norwalk and Rowayton in ideal winter conditions. Tim Milenkevich and Wilton’s Mary Zengo were the overall winners in the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively.
“I was worried about snow,’’ race director Jim Gerweck said. “I think it’s always good when the first one is run in good conditions. If you get snow for the first one it can be a pain in the neck. If you get good conditions for the first one, it kind of sets the tone for the series.”
The series consists of four races of progressively longer distances. Runners like to use the races to prepare for the Boston Marathon – hence the name – and other spring races. The next race in series is a 15k (9.3 miles) on Jan. 20 on Ridgefield. There is also a 20k (12.4 miles) on Feb. 10 in Fairfield and the series-ending 25k (15.6 miles) in Norwalk on March 3.
The opening race is also a mini-reunion for runners who long for competition. There are only a few racing opportunities in December. Many runners look forward to the Buildup opener to re-connect with friends and gauge their fitness after the holidays.
“I like to see a lot of the people and catch up with friends,’’ said Norwalk’s Ed Peters, who is a frequent competitor in the Buildup events. “I’m going to run any way. I might as well run with a lot of nice people.”
Peters ran 25 races last year of the 26.2 mile marathon distance or longer. He ran a 50-kilometer trail run on Saturday but also enjoys supporting local races.
While the race did not surpass the record field last year when 418 runners crossed the finish line, it was still a large field.
"It’s a lot like running,’’ Gerweck said. “You can’t set a personal record every time out.”
Milenkevich won in 33:10, while Dolan topped the women's field in 38:20. There were 395 finishers.