(31-May) -- Organizers of Saturday's 45th Freihofer's Run for Women in Albany, N.Y. are feeling optimistic as entries are finally back to pre-pandemic levels, and a robust elite field will again lead the race from its grand starting line in the shadow of the New York State Capitol. About 2800 women are expected to compete on Saturday, including four who have run every previous edition since the race was founded in 1979.
PHOTO: The start of the 2019 Freihofer's Run for Women (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"We've gone over the top for a 5-K once again, but you only celebrate 45 once," race director Kristen Hislop told Race Results Weekly in an e-mail.
Before the pandemic the race was riding high. In 2019 organizers recorded 2648 finishers, and on a beautiful sunny morning Elaina Tabb of the Boston Athletic Association High Performance team won in a come-from-behind effort over Diane Nukuri of Asics, 16:03.3 to 16:05.9. Down the finish order, current NC State star Kelsey Chmiel, then a senior at Saratoga Springs High School, finished fifth in 16:33.6, and three-time Olympian Jen Rhines won the masters division for the third time in 17:23. Twenty-four women broke 19 minutes, and Tabb won $10,000 in prize money.
"It was great to get in a hard effort like that," said Tabb who used the race as a tune-up for her upcoming track season.
But the pandemic forced the race to go virtual-only in 2020, and in 2021 organizers had to postpone the event until September because of a COVID surge in the spring. The number of finishers fell by more than 50%, and Hislop wasn't able to invite a national elite field. But thanks to the continued support from the Freihofer's Baking Company --founded in 1913 and famous for their chocolate chip cookies-- the race was back on the road and ready to get back to its traditional early June date in 2022.
"In 2021 we hosted the event in September without our kids' events," Hislop explained. "A gorgeous fall morning was a big hit, but when we moved back to the Saturday after Memorial Day in 2022 we saw our participation numbers rebound nicely."
Indeed, last June's race saw finishers nearly double to 1959, and former steeplechaser Allie Ostrander won in a personal best 15:48 in her first Freihofer's appearance. She really loved the atmosphere of the race, and the traditional presentation of flowers to the winner.
"Loved testing the fitness at the Freihofer's Run," Ostrander wrote on Instagram. "Walking away with more confidence and excitement for the rest of the season. And also flowers, which is obviously the most important thing."
Although Ostrander will not be racing in Albany this year, elite athlete coordinator Stephanie Rios has put together a very solid field which has seven women with sub-16:00 5000m personal bests. The fastest is Olympian Marielle Hall (15:02.27), followed by Olivia Pratt (15:26.85), Anne-Marie Blaney (15:37.74), and Tristin Van Ord (15:42.78). Pratt and Blaney are part of the Hansons-Brooks team in Rochester Hills, Mich., and they will be joined by their teammate, marathoner Jessie Cardin (16:12.36 PB), on the starting line in Albany. All three are ramping up their training again after the Boston Marathon where Blaney ran a personal best 2:31:32, Pratt ran 2:38:41, and Cardin was unable to finish.
"All three of them ran Boston this year and Anne-Marie and Olivia plan to run the New York Mini 10-K (June 10), and Jessie will be running the BAA 10-K (June 25)," coach Kevin Hanson told Race Results Weekly in an e-mail. "Because both of those races are such high power international races we felt that it was important to get another race under their belts before those events."
The top athletes will be competing for a ten-deep purse of $13,250 ($3,000 for the winner), and there is another $4,800 on the line for masters athletes ($1,000 for the winner plus $500 for the top age-graded time). And, of course, there will be free cookies.
"All our participants will enjoy their Freihofer's chocolate chip cookies, Freihofer's lite Italian bread, a custom shirt, a matching medal, custom bibboards, a commemorative poster, free beer and more," said Hislop.
Online registration is now closed, but the race will accept in-person registrations at the Armory at Russell Sage College (130 New Scotland Avenue) on Thursday, June 1, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Friday, June 2 from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.