Despite wintry temperatures and a chilling wind, the greening of Fairfield hit its pre-spring stride Sunday morning as thousands converged at Jennings Beach for the 19th annual Warren Street St. Patrick's Day Classic race events.
The main race, with more than 425 runners, cover a 4-mile course. Other events included a 0.5-mile Kids Fun Run (ages 6 and under), 1-mile Youth Road Race (ages 7-11), 1-mile Family Fun Run and a 2-mile Fitness Walk.
This year, the events benefited the Fairfield YMCA, Sandy Hook Elementary School Scholarship Fund and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
With St. Patrick's Day just a day away, many of the runners and the spectators were decked in green and sporting other tributes to the Irish holiday. There were shamrock antennae, shamrock necklaces, green headbands and even green tutus. The tutus were worn by Team Tutu, of which the first selectman of the upstate town of Sharon, Brent Colley, was a member. Colley's teammate joked, "Our outfits are appropriate today because it's `tutu' cold out here!"
Temperatures hovered around the freezing mark and, with gusty winds, the morning air felt even colder. Still, participants like Kristy Gorman of Westport were in good spirits. "I did this last year and had a lot of fun," she said. "It's a flat four miles and a great way to celebrate St. Pat's and show off my Irish."
Bill Weinheimer, Warren Street's course director, said the turnout for the 4-mile Road Race was one of the best ever, and several hundred others signed up for the other events Sunday. "While the wind is hurting us a little, it's a nice sunny day and these runs are tough," he said. "In fact, many are in shorts. And this is our 19th year, so we have built a loyal following."
Weinheimer added that the races make for a good way to celebrate the Irish holiday while supporting worthy causes.
Karen Backus, executive director of the Fairfield YMCA, was pleased that the Y was selected to be one of the recipients. "The races are very family oriented, which reflects our orientation and mission, and in return for the support, our staff helps manage and coordinate the races."
Seventy-year-old Ann Onton of Woodbridge was happy to be among the field of runners. The former Fairfield resident, wearing Irish-theme garb, said, "I've been a member of the Warren Street runners since the start of the event, nearly 20 years now."