MERIDEN — Fifty years after running up to Castle Craig in the middle of the winter alongside a 70-year-old Platt High School teacher, John D’Addario returned for the 51st Bernie Jurale Tradition Run on Sunday.
Jurale conscripted cross country coach Roy Gooding and a few of his runners, D’Addario included, for the 1970 run to show the high schoolers that if he could make the trek at his age, they could, too.
Now one year shy of Jurale’s age when he made the run that would blossom into the annual tradition run, D’Addario said he now realizes how difficult it was for Jurale to run the 3 miles up Peak Drive to Castle Craig. Though he walked this year, D’Addario plans to run to the summit next year in memory of the former science teacher.
“There’s no way to do this gracefully,” he said of the uphill run at Hubbard Park. “It’s going to hurt if you go hard and it’s going to hurt if you go slow.”
The race, which drew 331 participants, is now organized by the Parks and Recreation Department. This year, the race also collected warm clothing for the homeless.
Many of the participants ran back down from Castle Craig after reaching it. Vans were available for those who were tuckered out.
The relatively mild sunny, winter weather Sunday drew mixed reactions. Many welcomed the comfort, but others hoped to see Saturday’s overnight snow and rain continue into the morning to make the run more challenging.
Southington resident Marcel LaChance said his in-laws make the run every year, including in blizzards and downpours. This year, 10 members from both sides of his family made the trek up the mountain, including LaChance’s dog, Huckleberry.
“It’s their family’s tradition and now it’s our tradition,” he said. ” … It brings us together every year. Rain or shine we’re here.”
Among the most tenacious runners are the CT Trailmixers, who arrived hours before the race began at 10:30 a.m. to make their own run up to Castle Craig, eschewing the comfortable paved roadway in favor of trails, freshly covered in snow. They had just enough time for a short break before the tradition run.
Meriden resident John Zvonek said involving the Trailmixers in the race brings runners from across the state to the city. Members of the group return every week, typically Wednesday or Thursday nights, to make the run up Peak Drive on their own throughout the year.
“I’m just glad people are seeing the city from the side I see it from,” he said.