Winter Wonderland five-mile race returns in Milford

Runners take off Sunday for the 2019 Milford Road Runners’ five-mile Winter Wonderland run.

Runners take off Sunday for the 2019 Milford Road Runners’ five-mile Winter Wonderland run.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

MILFORD — The Milford Road Runners are will once again host Winter Wonderland, the traditional five-mile race, in person after having a virtual event in 2021.

“We had it virtually this January, and last year, we had it in person right before the pandemic started,” said Thomas Fatone of the Milford Road Runners.

The Winter Wonderland Race, scheduled for Jan. 30, 2022, will be the 41st running. It will take place at Platt Tech High School starting at 9:30 a.m.

“The race started back in 1981, the club, Milford Road Runners, has been around since 1977, and in its infancy, the club started hosting a summer track series for the kids of Milford to run on Thursday nights. All the club people would volunteer,” Fatone said.

The club, a non-profit organization, decided to start two races, the Winter Wonderland race and the Independence Day race, to get proceeds to help support the track series, which is free in the summertime, he said.

“All the proceeds go to the club, and in the past, with the proceeds of the race, we’ve also given out scholarships to Milford students,” said Fatone. “But most of the money does go to support the kid's summer track series.”

The track series series starts after July 4 and runs every Thursday at 6 p.m., on the Platt Tech track. The series aims to get children to participate in various running events from the 60-meter dash up to the mile.

“The kids come run, and they all get trophies no matter what place they finish in,” said Fatone. “Every Thursday night is a theme night. Maybe one Thursday we will give out Frisbees to everybody or smoothies, and on Thursday to end the series, all the volunteers dress up to entertain the kids. It’s a great event. Parents take their kids out. We take care of everything, and everyone is a winner.”

Despite only having to run the race virtually one time, organizers are excited to have everyone back in person in January,” he said.

“The virtual experience is nothing like the real experience,” Fatone said. “The camaraderie, seeing old friends. Everybody hangs out after, and usually, we have awards after.”

This year, the race has 10 sponsors, such as Woodbridge Running Company and The Greek Spot Cafe & Grill, with the title sponsor for the race being Patriot Bank.

The Winter Wonderland is a five-mile timed race, with awards going to the top runners various age divisions.

The race also has a two-mile walk option for those interested. Fatone said the walk starts at the same route but deviates from it to make it shorter.

“The usual runners and walkers who participate in the event have already started to sign up, and I’m hoping it will be as normal as possible,” said Fatone. “For the first-timer runners, it is a relatively flat course with a little hill at the end, with a water stop halfway through and lots of support along the way from our volunteers.”

Everyone who participates will receive a knit hat and coffee and treats at the end of the race, he added.