The Bobby Bell Road Race still draws a crowd 24 years after it was first run.
It also generates many donations.
The 2010 race raised $7,603 — the third highest total in the event's history — to be donated to charities across the Merrimack Valley.
"It turned out exceptionally well," said David LaBrode, director for the race. "I'm very proud that we could come up with a good amount for the various charities."
Here is the 2010 donation breakdown:
$3,500 to the Sapienza Scholarship Fund.
$1,228 to the Andover Striders Running Club.
$1,200 to the Joyce Moriarty Scholarship Fund.
$500 to the Haverhill High School Cross Country team.
$400 to the Haverhill Brightside organization.
$200 to the Haverhill Police Auxiliary Force.
$125 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The Bobby Bell 5-Mile Race was created in 1987 as a tongue-in-cheek response to Boston's larger, better-known Bonnie Bell 10K race, which was for women exclusively. LaBrode, with friends, came up with the idea for a male-only race, and the first race in 1987 raised $450. That same year, Haverhill math teacher and local running legend Tony Sapienza died, and a scholarship fund was created in his honor. To date, including a $3,500 donation in 2010, the Bobby Bell Race has donated $42,021 to the fund.
Eight years later, the Bobby Bell Race honored another fallen educator, Joyce Moriarty, with an annual walk. LaBrode said the walk annually generates over $1,000 to be donated to a second scholarship fund at Haverhill High. In 16 years, the Joyce Moriarty Memorial Fitness Walk has raised $20,231 for this fund, including a $1,200 donation in 2010.
In 2006, the race integrated a "gender-graded" time system. Dave Camire, founder of the popular CoolRunning.com website, calculated that the average race time for Merrimack Valley female runners was 12 percent slower than their male counterparts. Therefore, LaBrode, in 2005, began multiplying the times for female runners by .88, creating a handicap scoring system.
"In the five years it has been incorporated, women have outright won the race twice," LaBrode said.
In 2010, 214 runners participated in the 5-mile run, while 62 walked in the 16th Annual Joyce Moriarty Memorial Fitness Walk.
Even with the tough economy, LaBrode's top two financial sponsors — Rice Brouillard Electric and Magellan Aerospace Corp. — continued to support the race and the charities and groups to which the race donates.
Phil Rice, owner of Rice Brouillard, said he has also participated in the race since 1987.
"It's a worthy cause," he said.
LaBrode, a Haverhill resident who's been running since 1979, has directed this event for 24 years. He said it's his way of giving back to a sport that's provided him with joy.
"(Running is) something that's very close to me," he said. "I love to put on an event that I would enjoy running in."
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