The 4th of July is one of my favorite days of the year. It just so happens that my hometown, Chelmsford, Massachusetts is a great place to celebrate the 4th. The John Carson Road Race is held on the 4th of July each year and brings out close to 2,000 runners. This year will be my 12th running of the race. I'm usually joined by my husband, daughter and a whole group of family and friends.
The energy and atmosphere at the start line of this race is different from most road races. While there are serious runners who will cover the 2 miles in under 9 minutes, there are also slower runners and walkers who have come out with their friends and family to participate. As people wait for the starting gun, it's time to catch up with friends and neighbors. It is not unusual to see whole families running/walking in this race.
The race is a point to point course. It starts on Parkhurst Road behind Hannaford and finishes in Chelmsford Center. The course is rolling and you'll feel some of the hills if you're sprinting. See the course video for specifics on the race course. One thing I like about this event is that each half mile is marked on the ground. My goal is usually to finish the race under 14 minutes, so I try to keep each half mile under 3:30.
The first half mile of the race is crowded, but once you turn the corner onto North Road it opens up a bit. There is another benefit to hitting North Road...the fans!! North Road is lined each year with spectators to cheer you on. The reason for all the spectators is that immediately following the road race, the Chelmsford 4th of July Parade follows the same path down North Road. The closer you get to the Center the more spectators and the louder the cheers. The last quarter mile is usually a blur for me with crowds 4 or 5 deep on both sides of the road.
One of my favorite things about this race is getting to run in the middle of North Road. A lot of my training runs take me down North Road, so on race day I take advantage of not being stuck on the sidewalk. I usually run right down the yellow line.
I think I first came to love this race a number of years ago when I was a 4th grade teacher in Chelmsford. In June I would always challenge my students to run the race. I said I would buy an ice cream for any student who beat me. I always looked forward to seeing a few of them at the finish line, and I never was beat by a current student. As the years have gone on, I often see in the race results the names of some of my former students, and I'm happy they are still running the race. Now that they are older and faster a few have beaten me.
The John Carson Road Race may be a short race at only 2 miles long but the benefit is it brings out a lot of people who wouldn't tackle a 5K. The entire event has a welcoming feel to it, and since it's the 4th of July everyone is in a good mood. I know I always am because I'm looking forward to a day spent with friends and family, and maybe some fireworks to celebrate too.
Chelmsford is the place to be on the 4th of July!
Click here to sign up for the Road Race.
Click here to see the course video.
Click here for the Chelmsford Parade website.