With the 37th annual Litchfield Hill Road Race only days away it seems appropriate to highlight a relatively new monument that shows that commemoration is an ongoing process. Where the trail over Plumb Hill intersects with Whites’ Woods Road stands Road Race Park, a small plot of land with markers to recognize the contributions of those who have helped make the race possible.
What began in 1977 as the brainchild of a few friends to bring to Litchfield a road race modeled after the famed seven-miler in Falmouth, Massachusetts, has grown into a weekend of events that culminates with approximately 1,500 runners making their way through town and White Memorial. Participants have come from all age groups and dozens of countries and have included those who walk the course to marathon champions Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Runner’s World Magazine declared Gallow’s Hill the eighth most difficult hill in racing.
Of course, none of it would be possible without the volunteers.
One of the race’s notable volunteers was George Dwan, who served as race marshal at the site of Road Race park from the first race until his death in 2008. With his friend Roberta Coffill Healy, Dwan would decorate the area with pink flamingos, silver Christmas trees, pinwheels, and other tacky trinkets.
When George passed away, Roberta continued the tradition with her husband Jack. She also was instrumental in commemorating the work that Dwan and others put into the race. On the Saturday before the 2009 race, Road Race Park was dedicated. It consists of three large stones; those on the left and right are sitting stones. The center stone is inscribed with the words of race co-founder (with Bill Neller) Joe Concannon, “A labor of love and a celebration of the community.” On the back of the stone is a running beer mug, a reminder that a sense of fun has always pervaded the race.
Special thanks to Roberta Coffill Healy for sharing her memories of George Dwan and the story of Road Race Park!