A surge of humanity rolled through downtown Bel Air and along Main Street Sunday morning as nearly 1,000 runners and walkers hit the roads for the 38th annual Bel Air Town Run.
The event, which included a 5K run and a one-mile walk, is put on by the Renaissance All Sports Athletic Club, the Harford County affiliate of the Road Runners Club of America. The Harford County organization’s name is being changed to Run Harford, according to organizers.
“[We’re] bringing communities together, bringing Harford County together, introduce new people to running,” Christina Graber, a RASAC/Run Harford board member and marketing representative, said.
The Bel Air Town Run is part of the RRCA’s state championship series, according to organizers. It is also the fourth and final event for this year’s series of “premium” races put on by the Harford County affiliate. Earlier races include the 50-kilometer HAT Run in Susquehanna State Park in March, the Survivor Run and the Women’s 5K By the Bay, both in April, according to Graber and the club website.
Sunday’s run and walk started at Main Street near the intersection with Office Street. The walkers and runners followed the same route up Main and along Broadway, but the walk ended with a right turn on McCormick Street and then to the finish line on Lee Way at Shamrock Park.
Isaac Harmon, 57, of Bel Air, and his wife Sharon, 49, were among the walkers, along with their 12- and 15-year-old children. This year is the first time the Harmons have participated in the Bel Air Town Run.
“We heard about it, and we’re tying to get the family into fitness, just trying to be more active,” Isaac Harmon said while he and his wife walked up Main Street at a brisk pace. “[It’s] a chance to see the community a little bit.”
The 5K runners split from the walkers and continued to the left along Shamrock Road, through the Major’s Choice neighborhood and then back to Shamrock, to Benjamin Road, Broadway and eventually ending at the finish line at Shamrock Park, according to the route posted on the Town Run website.
Local officials, such as Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Billy Boniface, director of administration for the county government, were among the runners, as well as candidates for local and state offices or their supporters, wearing shirts bearing campaign logos.
Many parents and children ran together.
“It’s a heavily-attended family event,” Graber, the marketing representative, said.
People cheered, snapped photos and extended their hands for high-fives as the runners crossed the finish line.
Katie Skufis, 32, and Meg DeGroat, 35, both of Bel Air, crossed the finish line together.
“There were lots of neighbors out, cheering you on along the way,” DeGroat, who completed her first Bel Air Town Run, said.
Skufis said she did another Town Run years before Sunday’s event.
“I feel like I’m just glad I finished,” she said.
Shawn Loper, the race director, announced the winners across the various race divisions, as well as three high school seniors who won scholarships.
The scholarships range from $500 to $1,000, according to Graber.
Tyler Muse, 24, of Bel Air, was the overall first-place men’s finisher, and Megan DiGregorio, 30, of Baltimore, was the overall first-place women’s finisher. This year is the third consecutive first-place finish for both.
Muse finished with a chip time of 16:02, and DeGregorio finished at 18:36, according to the results posted online. Muse finished first out of all 781 runners, and DeGregorio finished 18th, according to the results.
DiGregorio said she has been running in 5K races since age 11, when she would run with her father, and her first Bel Air Town Run was in 2001, at age 13.
“It’s one of my first 5Ks,” she said.
DiGregorio ran Sunday with eight fellow members of the Falls Road Racing Team. Her father usually runs with her, but he had to work Sunday, she said.
She works at Falls Road Running Store in Towson, and she said the Bel Air race brings out many members of the running community in Maryland.
“It’s always good to see them again at races,” she said.
Muse ran his fourth consecutive Bel Air Town Run on Sunday. He works at Charm City Run in Baltimore.
“This is my favorite race of the year by far,” he said. “[With] it being in the heart of Bel Air, and then all the local Bel Air runners, it’s kind of like a reunion.”
Muse said he enjoys the “fast downhill starts” of the Bel Air run — the crowd starts to go uphill on Main Street after East Lee.
“Running down Main Street is always cool, because it’s the heart of Bel Air,” he said.
The Jean Ellen Conneally Memorial Award, an annual award given to those who support the running community, went to the son of the woman for whom the award is named.
Loper, who took over as race director this year from Mike Early, called the bib number of Whit Conneally, 49, of Towson, as the winner. Conneally and his 12-year-old son, Jason, accepted a bicycle as the prize.
Jean Ellen Conneally, an avid runner, died in February 1985 after being hit by a vehicle while running along Route 22, according to her son, who was 16 at the time.
Whit Conneally said he has been training for the Bel Air run for the past year, running previous 5Ks in November 2017 (Thanksgiving Turkey Trot at the Towson YMCA) and on May 5 (Baltimore County Public Schools Wellness Run).
“It was on my bucket list to run in the Bel Air Town Run in honor of my mother,” he said.
His mother participated in the Bel Air run, as well as many other community races.
Conneally is a field representative for the Baltimore County schools office of food and nutrition. His son attends Dumbarton Middle School in Towson.
Father and son ran in all three 5Ks. Whit finished the Bel Air race in 447th place, (31:10) and Jason finished 451st (31:17), according to the results.
“Just to be able to run the course and to be in Bel Air, it was a sense of accomplishment, as well as remembering and feeling good... it’s a good memory I have of her, because she loved running,” Conneally said of his mother.