LYNN — The weekly Lynn Woods cross country races are one of the staples of summer. They draw large crowds every week, with a mix of regulars and newcomers dashing through the three designated courses.
Wednesday, however, the weekly event will look a little different. More than 90 teams of four runners each will test their skills in the annual Lynn Woods relay race, starting at 6 p.m. in the same place the weekly races begin — on the Great Woods Road end.
Joe Abelon started the summer cross country series in 1970, and the relay was added the next year. The event draws nearly 100 teams from across the area and beyond. Some groups come with a pre-registered team of four, while other individuals show up on the night of the race and get grouped into teams so they can participate.
The preparation has already begun for this year’s race. Bill Mullen, who organizes the event with Abelon, says that this weekend was for getting pre-registered teams entered into the computer system, so officials can record the times of each team and individual. There’s also sorting the t-shirts and prizes, many of which are provided by The North Face store in the North Shore Mall, which has been a loyal sponsor. The store also provides gift cards as prizes and items for raffles. The winners of the men’s and women’s open divisions as well as the final team to finish the race.
The races are broken into several divisions: the men’s and women’s open divisions, the men’s and women’s masters (ages 40-49), men’s and women’s seniors (ages 50-59), men’s veterans (ages 60-69), women’s veterans (ages 60 and up), men’s super veterans (ages 70 and up), boys and girls high school and co-ed, for teams with two males and two females. The different divisions give more teams a chance to place.
As for the race itself, a team must have four runners in order to enter. Each member will run a 2.5-mile leg before returning and handing off to a teammate. At a certain point in the evening, organizers will send off anyone who hasn’t yet run in order to finish the race before sunset.
Mullen says the runners are primarily local with some exceptions, and many teams spawn from local running clubs, like the Mystic Running Club and the North Shore Striders. The Wicked Running Club races at Lynn Woods as part of its Grand Prix series, which includes 10 different courses around the area.
Mullen says the atmosphere at the relay is a little different than that of the weekly races.
“There’s more energy, more cheering with the team aspect,” Mullen said. Part of that reason is because 75 percent of the runners are waiting at the beginning of the course for their teammates throughout the hour and a half of the races.
While between 70 and 75 teams have already registered, those that show up on Wednesday night are still welcome. For more information on the relay, visit lwrun.org.