By LISA CAPOBIANCO
For 46 years now, the annual Mum-A-Thon Road Race and Fitness Walk has served as one of Connecticut’s longest-running athletic events as well as one of the Bristol Mum Festival’s community events.
Hosted by the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame, the Mum-A-Thon is a newly revised 5K course through downtown that is considered to be flat and fast.
This quality of the course is one of the reasons why Bristol resident David Ricciuti has participated in the race for over a decade now, and has not missed a Mum-A-Thon since he started.
“It’s flat and very quick,” said Ricciuti, adding how he enjoys the “loop” that the Mum-A-Thon offers. “I like that it’s at Memorial Boulevard—I’m at the boulevard all the time doing laps.”
But Ricciuti is more than just a long-time participant of the Mum-A-Thon. For the past two years, he also was the top overall male of the race. In 2013, Ricciuti’s final total run time was just over 18 minutes. In 2012, his final total run time was 17 minutes and 48 seconds.
“I’m usually nervous before a race—I like to do well in local races,” said Ricciuti. “When you pull ahead, it’s exhilarating.”
For Ricciuti, running was a hobby he picked up 16 to 17 years ago when he started to get out of shape. A former soccer player growing up, Ricciuti said he became more skilled at the sport after training with other runners he knew. Today Ricciuti has participated in different races throughout the state, including the Half Marathon and the Hartford Marathon. He also has run the Boston Marathon five times, and plans to return there next year.
In preparation for any race, Ricciuti can be found training for an hour on a daily basis whether he is running or biking. He will return again to compete for the trophy again during this year’s Mum-A-Thon.
“I got hooked on it pretty quickly—I run every distance,” said Ricciuti, adding how he became more accustomed to the skill over time.
The 46th Annual Mum-A-Thon, which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 4 with registration beginning at 7 a.m. The 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk also will include a Kids Fun Run, and the first 500 registered participants will receive free t-shirts. Sponsored by Yarde Metals, Renaissance Downtowns, First Bristol Federal Credit Union, Barnes Group Foundation, and Thomaston Savings Bank, the race will start and finish at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Other sponsors of the event include BMF Insurance Consulting, and Radiologic Associates.
Bristol Chief of Police Tom Grimaldi has served as the race director for a few years now. Grimaldi said last year’s Mum-A-Thon drew 150 runners, and hopes that this year’s race draws even more. He said the annual race is appealing for runners because it is flat, and fast. He added the race also serves as a form of nostalgia, considering its long history in Bristol.
“It has been around in Bristol for 46 years—that is quite an accomplishment,” said Grimaldi.
James Wardwell, chief of police for New Britain, remembers the Mum-A-Thon when it was once an eight-mile race that started at the Bristol Plaza. Born and raised in Bristol, Wardwell ran in the Mum-A-Thon as a high school junior and senior. After high school, Wardwell served on the committee and ultimately took over as the race director in the 1980s until the early 1990s. He also used to organize the races of the Bristol Track Club.
Wardwell said the race, which brought 200 or so participants every year when he was involved, served as a real community event that brought a little friendly competition among the local runners.
“It was all about the hometown,” said Wardwell, who ran cross country and track in high school. “A lot of effort was to make it all about Bristol. Everyone loved being a part of it.”
Reflecting back on last year’s road race, Ricciuti said he was surprised to win for two consecutive years, considering he is not getting any younger. Ricciuti said although he is in his 40’s, he hopes to continue running in the Mum-A-Thon for as long as he possibly can.
“My knees are in great shape, so as long as I can hold out, I’ll do it in a wheelchair if I have to,” said Ricciuti, who also enjoys camping and hiking with his children.
For more information about the Mum-A-Thon or to register for the race, visit http://bristolmumfestival.org/mumfestival/pages/schedule2.asp.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO