Forty years into the Bucks County Roadrunners’ Winter Series, club members are still looking for ways to keep it great.
The series unofficially starts on Sunday with an informal run on the Delaware Canal towpath and then officially gets underway with the Covered Bridge 5K at Tyler State Park the following Sunday.
New Winter Series director John O’Brien, who succeeds Michael Gross, expresses personal excitement that close to 400 local runners will be showing up each week to race, interact with friends and enjoy a fabulous post-run food spread at the pavilion on the banks of Neshaminy Creek.
The emphasis in recent years has been to recruit younger runners for a club which has plenty of “veteran’’ members.
“As you know, we have an older crowd,’’ O’Brien said in a telephone conversation. “We’re doing what we can to try to encourage young people to come out and we’ve been working on that; coming up with goofy themes for races, promoting the races on social media.’’
The 11-race series features races which range in distance from 5K (3.1 miles) to the half-marathon (13.1 miles).
Numerous challenging hills in Tyler make for some great offseason training.
O’Brien wants to maintain the club’s rich tradition.
“It’s just keeping everything going strong,’’ he said. “The condition that Mike handed everything over, everything was really well organized. My first year is to just keep everything going.
“I’m really excited. It should be fun.’’
O’Brien, 53, is an Upper Darby native whose family moved to Bucks County when he was only 5. He attended Neshaminy High School and later graduated from Rider College, having studied business science and computers.
He was a swimmer in school and didn’t begin running until his adult years. He joined BCRR in 2005.
His daughter, Ashley, recently completed her first marathon (Philadelphia).
As a stock trader, he’s quite familiar with analyzing data and that should come in handy for organizing the series, like keeping an eye on the weather each week.
In fact, that’s one of his tasks with the recently completed Customers Bank Thanksgiving 5-Miler in Langhorne/Core Creek Park. He’s also co-director of another BCRR race, the Run the Gates in Levittown.
A former 3:10 marathon runner (and Boston Marathon qualifier), he recently ran 3:38 at the Philadelphia Marathon.
The Winter Series goes all the way back to the first running boom of the late ‘70s.
Original BCRR club member Larry Waldman remembers those first years.
“It was very low-key,’’ Waldman recalls. “Rich Riggi (former fitness director at Lower Bucks County YMCA) organized the first one and I don’t think we had 50 people.
“We used popsicle sticks at the finish line to clock the times. We didn’t have a clock for the first couple years so we used a stopwatch.’’
O’Brien appreciates the spirit of volunteerism exhibited by members.
“It’s fun,’’ he said. “Everyone gets out there each week. It’s not just the running competitiveness but the whole social aspect of getting out and hanging out with like-minded people.
“During the winter, you don’t get to get out as much. It’s a time when you can get out and run with other people. Everyone is there, so you have different pace groups. In the winter you get cooped up. It’s a good reason to be out and just hang out.’’
Here’s the Winter Series schedule (the Cham-Pain race starts at 11 a.m., the other races start at 9 a.m.):
/n + Dec. 3: Informal run.
/n + Dec. 10: Covered Bridge 5K.
/n + Dec. 17: Jingle Bell 5.3-Miler.
/n + Jan. 1: Cham-Pain 5K.
/n + Jan. 7: Tyler Challenge 10K.
/n + Jan. 14: Wild Card (4 to 6 miles).
/n + Jan. 21: Polar Bear 8-Miler.
/n + Jan. 28 Honest Abe 4.6-Miler.
/n + Feb. 4: Terrible Tyler 15K.
/n + Feb. 11: Pick Your Way 5.3-Miler.
/n + Feb. 18: Half-Marathon 13.1-Miler.
/n + Feb. 25: Staggered Start 4.6-Miler.
Information on club membership and registration for races is available at www.bcrrclub.com.