History of the Litchfield Hills Road Race
Established in 1977
I’m sure that it would bring a tear to Joe Concannon’s eye to know that his beloved race, the race he put together with Billy Neller and a group of his best friends from Litchfield, begins another year and is still going strong. Joe wanted a vehicle to bring his out of town running friends together with his hometown friends and thus the Litchfield Hills Road Race was born.
Based on the famous race in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the Litchfield Hills Road Race course was plotted, runners were invited, volunteers were um, recruited (or shanghaied?) beer was put on ice and in 1977 the first Litchfield Hills Road Race was underway. One of the most exceptional things about this small town race is that a Bill Rodgers and an Ovidio DeRubertis can run the same course at the same time and receive equal measures of appreciation from the fans who line the streets and who have, from day one, made this race loved by those who are sweating out the seven and then some mile course.
The history of the race just unfolds from there. The race got bigger, more volunteers were needed, more planning was necessary, more Litchfield families opened up their homes to runners, and deep, long-lasting friendships were forged between people who, if not for Joe, would never have met one another.
LHRR has seen runners from all over the world, representing Ireland, New Zealand, Kenya, Great Britain, Belgium, Tanzania, Canada, Yugoslavia, Morocco and Poland, keeping pace with some of our more famous American runners, including Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit, Dave Dunham, Randy Thomas, Patti Catalano and Vin Fleming to name a few and of course some of our infamous Litchfield runners, such as Rick Evangelisti, David Driscoll, Father Tucker, the Hound, Paula Brunetto, The Hawk, Bill Sivhra, always several McKenna’s; the list is endless.
The exciting battles that have been witnessed over the years for top finishers are legendary; the pre-race, race day and after-race parties and stories that spin off of those get-togethers are even more legendary. The buzz starts when the daffodils begin to bloom in early spring – stories are taken out of the closet, brushed off and are told and re-told, and there are whispers of John Clock sightings. . As late May rolls around, more and more runners are visible in White’s Woods, training for the big day. It’s kind of like when the swallows return to Capistrano…..
Race day brings something different for everyone. For some, it is the culmination of months (and in some cases weeks or days!) of training. For others, it is taking the time to man a water station or a mile marker or a fire truck. And for many, it is a time to pick a spot on the course and marvel at the thousand plus runners who have what it takes to get out there and give it their best. And for all, it is a glorious reunion of friendships. Litchfield Hills Road Race is known to many as the Friendship Race, a very fitting name indeed.
The Race is rich with traditions ….the firing of the cannon by the First Litchfield Artillery, the “Hill”, the barricade brigade, the infamous line from Bill Rodgers, “I had to go into ninth gear” referring to his trek up Gallows Lane, Dave Skoneiczny calling the runners to post, the Tenacious 10 (Those who have run every year in the race), Dodgie Doyle leading the pack of runners down Meadow Street, the Village, the bands that line the course, the flags hanging uptown that represent so many countries, the welcoming encouragement from marshals Jack, Roberta (and George in spirit) and their pet flamingos at the bottom of the school hill, and of course the wonderful spectators, encouraging the runners every step of the way.
In the words of Jean Evangelisti, “…the festivities, hospitalities and friendships that are the trademarks of race weekend give you something that borders on magical.” There have been so many who have kept this magic alive over the years, those dedicated to keeping the original flavor and homegrown feel of the race, carrying on the traditions of those before them.
Joe Concannon called the race, “A labor of love and a celebration of community”. His dream of bringing all his friends together in one place on one special day began it all. Years later we are still running that dream. Thank you, Joe.
Hall of Fame
Godfrey Kiprotich | 33:21
Men’s Record Holder
Course record of 33:21 set on June 8, 1997
Godfrey Kiprotich, a graduate of Kenya’s famed St. Patrick’s High School, will head up the KIMbia training camp in Iten. He is a former runner with a 10,000m best of 27:47 and was once the world’s premier marathon pacemaker, having served in this capacity at the New York City, Chicago, Fukuoka and Berlin marathons. He was a successful competitor on the road racing circuit, placing 4th in the1994 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and among the top three in many US events. Featured on NBC’s “The Public Eye” with Bryant Gumbel, Godfrey has served as a commentator on ESPN’s “Running and Racing” and the local broadcast of the Falmouth Road Race. He also assists AMREF (African Medical Research Foundation) with their global fundraising efforts.
Patti Lyons Catalano | 38:27
Women’s Record Holder
Patti Lyons Catalano
Course record of 38:27 set on June 14, 1981
Patti simply has a phenomenal record. In December ’06, she traveled to Honolulu to be inducted into the Honolulu Marathon Hall of fame. She won the Honolulu Marathon 4 years in a row from 1978 to 1981, setting a course record each time she ran. During her career, Patti held every American distance record from the 5 mile to the marathon, and the world records in the ½ marathon and 30k. From April of 1980 to April of 1981, she ran 48 distance races, winning 44 of them. This included everything from the indoor mile (4:51) to the marathon (2:27). Her time of 2:27.51 in the Boston marathon broke her own American record in 1981. (That works out to about 5 minutes and 32 seconds per mile for 26.2 miles). Patti took 2nd place in the Boston Marathon 3 years in a row, and she also was the first American woman to run the marathon in under 2 ½ hours! In 2006, Patti lost her world record in the 30k that she held for over 20 years. Patti was ranked as the #1 female distance runner in the world in 1980 and 1981.
Men's Top Ten Times
- 1997 Godfrey Kiprotich – 33:21:00
- 2007 Reta Alene – 33:30:00
- 1993 Gideon Mutisya – 33:37:00
- 1996 John Kipngeno – 33:43:00
- 2004 Ronald Mogaka – 33:45:00
- 1994 Eddy Hellebucyk – 33:46:00
- 2004 Joseah Matul – 33:52:00
- 2003 David Njuguna – 33:52:00
- 1998 Douglas Wakihuri – 33:53:00
- 1982 Vin Fleming – 33:55:00
Women's Top Ten Times
- 1981 Patti Catalano – 38:27:00
- 1985 Sarah Rowell – 38:48:00
- 1982 Joan Benoit – 38:50:00
- 1981 Joan Benoit – 39:09:00
- 1980 Joan Benoit – 39:26:00
- 2007 Alemteshay Mesganw – 39:33:00
- 1994 Lori Hewig – 39:34:00
- 1989 Michelle Bush-Cuke – 39:45:00
- 1998 Victoria Mitchell – 39:47:00
- 2009 Heidi Westerling – 39:47:00
Over the years, various people, not necessarily runners, have had an impact on the 30+ years of the Litchfield Hills Road Race. We all know about Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson. But there are other people who have contributed greatly along the way.
Joe Concanon circa 19xx
Joe is best known as the founder of the LHRR, but his real passion was the bringing together of friends from around the globe, to participate in what some call the “Friendship Race”. As the years roll by, the spirit of Joe’s original intent has exploded into a yearly gathering of reunions, friends old and new reveling in the stories and lore that is the real heart of the LHRR.
George Dwan circa 19xx
Marshal extraordinaire who manned his post since the inception of the LHRR. His ever-cheerful smile, endearing laughter, herd of pink flamingos and offerings of thirst quenchers brought much anticipated relief for runners as they made their way down the school hill. George was and will remain one of the greatest traditions of our beloved race.
Ovidio DeRubertis circa 19xx
A local icon and a Litchfield tradition all on his own, Ovidio brought to the race the idea that ANYONE could participate in this feat of fleet feet; showing us his love of life and joy of community as he trotted down West Street, generally the last of the day’s runners, his beaming smile acknowledging the roar of the appreciative crowd as we all watched our favorite runner cross the finish line.
Thea Vigent on race day 19xx
One of the biggest fans of the LHRR, Thea brought joy to all who knew her. Her welcoming smile and pleasant manner greeted all as the Village Restaurant, official headquarters of the race, opened its doors for the insanity of road race weekend. We all appreciated and will miss her love of life, kindness, and beauty of spirit.