Thursday, 13 June 2024 15:03

18th Annual Firecracker4 Race Returns to Saratoga

Runners participate in the 2023 Firecracker4 road race. Photo by Super Source Media. Runners participate in the 2023 Firecracker4 road race. Photo by Super Source Media.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Eighteen years ago, the Firecracker4 was a modest race on July 4th with about 150 runners that raised money for high school running programs in Saratoga Springs. Now, it’s an ever-evolving event with thousands of participants and grand plans for the future.

“We can put 10,000 people on that course, and we’re going to before this is all over,” said Charles Woodruff, one of the race organizers and a co-owner of the Fleet Feet running stores in Albany and Malta. “It’s a very compelling race to be involved in.”

This year, Woodruff and fellow race organizer Peter Goutos, president of CASmith LLC, are aiming for around 3,000 participants, which would be 900 more than last year.

The race advertises itself with its appealing four-mile course that winds through downtown Saratoga Springs and the east side of the city, past historic homes and dozens of musical acts that range from singers to saxophone players to percussionists. But growing the race necessitates new initiatives every year, as well as continued community engagement. 

This year, Woodruff is inviting local schools to put alumni teams together. An area in the parking lot has been set aside for alumni team tents, which could house both younger and older graduates. Saratoga Springs, Colonie, Bethlehem, and East Greenwich school districts are already lined up to participate, though Woodruff is still recruiting more. 

More runners of course means more funds raised for the community, and the Firecracker4 has supported a number of running and health-related projects, including the Saratoga Regional YMCA, local running clubs, the Railroad Run trail in Saratoga Springs, and the Pitney Meadows Community Farm trail system, which Goutos and Woodruff designed and built. All told, $400,000 has been raised for the community over the race’s 18-year history.

Part of Goutos and Woodruff’s mission is not just to expand the number of local trails, but to connect them. Goutos helped put together the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail, a planned 24-mile path that will connect residential neighborhoods to the downtown area, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to easily get around the city.

“This has gotten much more involved than I ever dreamed it would,” Woodruff said.

As the race continues to grow and expand its influence on the region, there’s one simple message that the organizers like to emphasize: running is for everyone. 

“I don’t even call running ‘running’ anymore. I call it just simply moving with purpose,” Woodruff said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, attract all of those people that we can of every demographic that you can possibly think of that just want to come out for an hour on July 4th in the morning and move with purpose.”

The four-mile Firecracker4 road race begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 4th outside the Saratoga Springs City Center at 522 Broadway. This year’s sponsors include Death Wish Coffee, Fleet Feet, and Greenwich Ford. For more information or to register, visit firecracker4.com.

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