HOLYOKE — When Lou Serafini made the corner from Beech Street onto Lyman Street for the home stretch of Saturday’s 44th annual St. Patrick’s Road Race, he was surrounded by police cars and trucks carrying photographers and race officials. He was not surrounded by other runners.
In fact, Serafini finished almost a minute and a half in front of his nearest rival.
“I had never run this race before, so I wanted to set myself apart from the pack early,” said Serafini, of Somerville.
With a finishing time of 29 minutes and 37.6 seconds, Serafini was the fastest of more than 6,100 runners who took to the streets of Holyoke for the 10-kilometer race Saturday. The first woman to cross the finish line was Danielle Winslow of South Hadley, who posted a time of 35 minutes and 43.6 seconds.
The temperature hung in the mid-40s at race time, but with an unrelenting wind it felt much colder. The weather did not bother most runners. After the race, Serafini said the cold did not bother him. He felt the worst part of the it was the wind.
“It was pretty much like uphill headwinds for the first four miles,” he said. “Once we turned the corner at the top (Homestead Avenue to Cherry Street), I figured it had to be all downhill from there.”
Both Serafini and Winslow won the main runners’ division of up to 39 years old. In the men’s race, Donal O’Sullivan of Leeds topped the 40 to 49-year-old bracket at 34 minutes and 29.8 seconds. Sarah Kelly of Ludlow took the women’s 40 to 49 bracket with a time of 40 minutes and 23.9 seconds, while Mimi Fallon of Walpole took the women’s 50 to 59 bracket with a time of 40 minutes and 27.8 seconds.
The Holyoke race remains one of the country’s top local road races. It was ranked the fifth-best St. Patrick’s Day road race in the country by Runner’s World magazine.
No small part of that is the estimated 75,000 spectators who turn out each year. Race Director Brian Donoghue said the Saturday race and Sunday parade have become something special for current and former Holyoke residents.
“This is homecoming for Holyoke,” he said. “Anyone with any ties to Holyoke, this is the weekend they come back. And a big part of that is what happens after the race.”
Take 75,000 people, put them on the streets of downtown Holyoke, mix in a few beer stands and food trucks, and you have one of the largest block parties this area has ever seen. Indeed, throngs of people stretched for at least four blocks along Maple Street near the finish line for the race.
According to race officials, about 6,500 people signed up for the race this year. That includes walkers and people who register but ultimately don’t participate.
Among the racers were about 400 registered walkers who started the race last. Among the walkers was U.S. Rep Richard Neal, who posted a time of 46 minutes.
“That’s about six minutes off from last year, but I’ll take it,” he said.
Sunday’s parade starts at noon at the Kmart plaza on Route 5 and follows a 2.65-mile route to Hampden Street. The parade annually attracts about 400,000 spectators.