NORTH ANDOVER — Because he had to sound the horn as the young runners began their trek around the North Andover common, Ray Bourque had a bit of a late start.
The Boston Bruins legend recovered to finish the North Andover 4th of July Road Race kids edition, but not without a slight hint of difficulty.
“They were tough to keep up with, the energy that they have,” said the NHL Hall of Famer.
Bourque helped kick off the event, run by the North Andover Booster Club, in fun style, running the kids race, awarding medals and posing for picture after picture throughout the eventful morning.
Bourque, whose family foundation does plenty of work on the road race scene, among other things, was happy to lend a hand.
“We’re all about raising money, making a difference and donating to different causes,” Bourque said. “This is something that’s been going on for 41 years and helped a lot of kids around this area. I’m around on the fourth, I’ll show up early in the morning and I’ll run around the common.”
While Bourque tried to catch up, Methuen 9-year-old Harrison Kucharski ran away with the race, which was just over half a mile around the big patch of green grass in the center of North Andover.
Kucharski barely broke a sweat as he crossed the finish line, collecting his medal and practically acting like nothing happened.
Bourque, who said he was looking for the sign with his age on it, as the kids were organized with their peers, settled on trying to keep the pace.
“I couldn’t find my age group,” the 58-year-old Bourque joked. “But, I kept up and finished the half-mile. That’ll be my workout for the day.”
Bourque was thrilled to celebrate the 4th of July, having become an American citizen in 1996 after joining the Bruins in 1979. He reflected on what Boston, the area, and the occasion all meant to him.
“It’s a special day,” Bourque said. “I’ve been here for 40 years and it’s just an incredible area. For me and my family, all my kids were born (in the area) and it’s such a special place. ... It’s special to be a part of and I’m happy I got to Boston in 1979.”