By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The North Andover Senior Center is now $24,136 richer, thanks to the rejuvenated 4th of July Road Race.
Representatives of the Borderline Running Club, which organized the race, presented a check in that amount to the selectmen Monday night. The club had hoped to give the Senior Center $5,000, according to Carol Marshall, who directed the event along with her husband, Chris Marshall.
“We far exceeded what we had anticipated,” she said.
Martha Cashins, president of the Friends of the North Andover Senior Center, said the donation will likely be used to help elders reduce their transportation costs. The Senior Center currently kicks in half of the cost of a $20 book of Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority bus tickets for each local elder, she said.
For the older population, “transportation is a huge issue,” said Cashins, who owns a local business, Home Instead Senior Care. Part of the donation may be applied to the Senior Center’s emergency fund, which helps older folks pay heating, utility and other bills if they are in desperate circumstances, she said.
A scholarship program that helps senior citizens pay for courses may also benefit from the runners’ largesse, she added.
Marshall said the Borderline Running Club decided to help the Senior Center because it serves “a growing population.” She also noted that many of the people affiliated with the center are volunteers.
“Every dime that we raise goes to the Senior Center,” Cashins said.
More than 900 runners and walkers participated in the 4th of July Road Race, Marshall said. The 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer races drew 719 entrants. Before those competitions got underway, a Kids Run, six-tenths of a mile around the Old Center Common, took place.
Starting in 1979, the North Andover 4th of July Road Race was a highly popular challenge for runners. Extensive road construction along the course, however, put a temporary end to the fun a few years ago.
The Borderline Running Club, its members feeling nostalgic about a race famous for taxing runners with the grueling climb up Johnson Street as well as the immense doses of heat and humidity that almost always grace the Fourth of July in these parts, staged an unofficial run that followed the traditional course each Independence Day. There was no official timing, Marshall explained, but the run began and ended at the Common — just like the race — and participants could enjoy the exhilaration of running North Andover on July Fourth.
Then Selectman William Gordon offered the Borderline Running Club a challenge last year, she said. Gordon, himself an avid distance runner — he breezed through the 10K in roughly 49 minutes last week — urged the club, founded in 2006, to bring back the full-fledged race.
Chris and Carol Marshall, their daughter Olivia, a Westfield State University junior who runs cross country and track at her school and was this year’s MASCAC (Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference) steeplechase champion, and other club members pitched in starting in November. They secured 37 sponsors, mostly local businesses, and arranged the countless details that go into organizing a successful road race: timing, water stops, emergency medical coverage, police protection, portable toilets, registration, food and publicity.
“We can’t say enough about how helpful everyone was,” Carol Marshall said. “Everybody came together.”