WOONSOCKET — The time of the year has changed and so has the location, but the YMCA Race Against Racism 5K is coming back to Woonsocket for a second running and looking to improve on its success from a year ago.
Last year’s event became the first road race in nearly two decades to hit the streets of Woonsocket. Held on a sunny April 10 at River Island Park, over 200 people signed up for the race and 181 finished it.
While that inaugural race made a splash in the running community, Meghan Grady, the race coordinator and the Chief Operating Officer at YWCA Northern Rhode Island, is looking to make some serious waves this time around.
And she made a bold move that has only brightened her optimism for the race. Instead of holding a spring race, she bumped the event to Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9 a.m. at World War II Memorial Park, smack dab in the middle of Woonsocket’s annual Autumnfest celebration.
“We had a great opportunity to move the race to Autumnfest weekend,” Grady said on Thursday morning. “We had a great turnout last year, but we figured that moving the race to that weekend would allow us to increase the promotion of the race and also bank on a little bit better weather.”
Roland Lavallee, a road racing veteran and the boys’ cross country coach at Mount St. Charles Academy, won last year’s race in a 15:05 time that was almost two minutes faster than the runner-up finisher, and Peggy Prosseda of East Greenwich was the top female finisher, producing a 22:25 time that topped Cumberland’s Brenda Burns by 23 seconds.
“We were excited that we brought a 5K to this area, and we were very happy with last year’s race,” added Grady. “We had about 225 participants, and we’re hoping to double the number of participants for this year’s race.”
The 3.1-mile course is a friendly one for both runners and walkers. It starts and ends at World War II Park and covers Blackstone Street, Harris Avenue, River Street, Singleton Street, Summer Street, and North Main Street.
“I’ve been out and run the course,” said Grady. “It’s an easy-to-moderate course and there’s not any major hills. This year’s course really highlights a lot of the culture, industry, and beauty of the city of Woonsocket. We start downtown, run past the YWCA and through the industrial complex, and back through some of the beautiful historic
neghborhoods of this city. It’s excellent.”
The entry fee is $22 until Sept. 21, $25 after Sept. 21, and $27 on the day of the race. Race t-shirts will be distributed to the first 400 runners, and the post-race festivities include food and beverages for the participants and a chance to hit Autumnfest when the gates open at 10 a.m.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers, as well as the first-place male and female age division winners who did not place among the top three males or females.
The partner organizations that are involved with the race are Autumnfest, Connecting for Children & Families, Copswalk, Family Resources Community Action, Landmark Medical Center, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Northern Rhode Island Area Health Education Center, RiverzEdge Arts Project, Thundermist Health Center, Woonsocket Prevention Coalition, and the YWCA Rhode Island.
“We are inviting anyone who wants to support these organizations to log online to our web site, raceagainstracismri.org, register to run or walk in the race, and designate which community organization you’d like your race proceeds to support,” said Grady, who added that the mission of the race “is intended to unite people of all races, demonstrate our community’s commitment to eliminating racism, and celebrate our diversity.”
For more information or to volunteer for the race, send an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org  or call the YWCA at 401-769-7450.
September and October have long been popular months for road races in this part of New England, and here are five more local ones that you could add with the YMCA Race Against Racism 5K to form a formidable six-pack.
Saturday, Aug. 25, Maurice “Yo” Raymond 5K, Cumberland — For the past five years, this has been a very popular race in the Blackstone Valley. Held at the shade-covered Camp Ker Anna on 500 Reservoir Rd., the course is an out-and-back special that starts and ends with a rolling hill, but is primarily flat amd very scenic along Reservoir Road. The post-race raffle may be one of the biggest that you will find at a road race.
Saturday, Sept. 1, PawSox 5K Race/Walk, Pawtucket — Like the Boston Red Sox and Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox are trying their hand at a road race. This inaugural event is mostly flat and has a fantastic finish that takes runners along the warning track at McCoy Stadium and finishes near the PawSox’s dugout. An added treat — all runners are invited on the field for a pre-game ceremony before that night’s 6 p.m. game between the PawSox and their division rivals, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Saturday, Sept. 15, Crackerbarrel Classic, Wrentham, Mass. — One of the oldest fall races in southeastern Massachusetts (32 years and counting), local runners over the years have made it a habit to cross state lines and run in this flat race that tours country roads. The post-race breakfast alone makes running this event worth your while.
Saturday, Oct. 20, South Foster Volunteer Fire Company Fall Foliage 5K and 10K Run and Walk, Foster — This may be a drive for some local runners, but it’s worth it. This second-year race offers participants the option of running or walking 3.1 or 6.2 miles through some of Foster’s picturesque neighborhoods. A barbecque and hay rides highlight the post-race festivities.
Saturday, Oct. 27, Brain Injury Association of R.I. 5K Run and 1-Mile Walk, Pawtucket — Give local road racing standout Brendan Doyle credit for creating this race, which like the “Yo” Raymond” 5K, has picked up in popularity in just a few years. The course tours throughout Slater Park and also has an excellent post-race spread and runner’s raffle.