By Dan Guttenplan
---- — If the key to completing a marathon is taking the first step, the key to winning the Winner’s Circle Running Club’s Grand Prix Series would figure to be signing up for the first race.
That race is scheduled for Saturday, when the April Fools’ 4-Mile Road Race in Salisbury kicks off a 19-event Grand Prix Series. Eighteen Grand Prix races will follow between Saturday and January of 2014, with distances varying between two and 16 miles per race.
The Grand Prix Series is scored by participation and race results. Each runner receives a point for each mile he or she completes in a race, and bonus points are awarded for individual championships or age-group championships.
“It started in the early 1990s, and it’s exploded to almost 20 races,” said Winner’s Circle Club President Dale Eckert. “If someone does every race, he or she will probably win the series. I don’t know if anyone will do all of them.”
Eckert is directing the April Fools’ Race Saturday. As of yesterday afternoon, 843 runners had pre-registered for the 4-miler, thanks to a rush of recent entries due to the improved weather. Saturday’s forecast calls for temperatures approaching 50 degrees with plenty of sun.
“People were getting snowed out of their races, so it kept registration low until the last couple of weeks,” Eckert said.
Last year, more than 1,000 runners pre-registered for the race, and 933 participants finished on race day. South Hamilton’s Patrick Rich won the men’s race in 20:33.6 (5:09 pace), and Haverhill’s Heather Searles won the women’s race in 24:29 (6:08 pace). Eckert said he keeps the prize money at a reasonable amount — $100 each for the male and female winner — so that locals will compete for first place.
“I want local people to win the money,” Eckert said. “If you put out giant purses, guys come up from New York City, run, win the money, and leave.”
John Mortimer set the course record in 2004 with a time of 18:33. Molly Watcke holds the women’s record of 21:08, which she set in 2001.
The race starts on the opposite side of Route 110 from the Winner’s Circle Club, on Old Elm Street. Racers are advised to park at the Vision Max Cinema next to the running club.
Winner’s Circle Running Club Grand Prix Series
Date, Race, Location
March 30, April Fools’ 4-Mile Road Race, Salisbury
April 14, Merrimac River 10-Mile Trail Run, Andover
April 20, Whale of a Tail 5K Trail Run, Rye, N.H.
May 18, Evelyn’s Run For the Roses 5K Road Race, Salisbury
May 19, Trav’s 5K Trail Run, Newburyport
June 2, Kennebunk 5K Beach Classic, Kennebunk, Maine
June 15, Bow Lake Dam 5K/15K Road Race, Strafford, N.H.
July 6, Run For the Gym 5K Road Race, Sanford, Maine
July 20, Stratham Fair 5.7-Mile Road Race, Stratham, N.H.
July 30, Yankee Homecoming 10-Mile Road Race, Newburyport
Aug. 15, Saunders 10K, Rye, N.H.
Sept. 2, Around Cape Ann 25K Road Race, Gloucester
Sept. 29, Mendum’s Half Marathon, Barrington, N.H.
Oct. 6, Bobby Bell 5-Mile Road Race, Haverhill
Oct. 26, Saint Thomas School 5K, Sanford, Maine
Nov. 30, Timmy Trot 5K, Salisbury
Dec. 1, Andover 3.6-Mile Cross-Country Run, Andover
Dec. 8, Santa’s 2/4/6-Mile Toy Trot, Merrimac
Jan. 26, 2014, Boston Prep 16-Mile Road Race, Derry, N.H.