Last year, the Board of Directors of the Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club (SMAC) voted to take a one-year hiatus while we looked at the viability of the race. After examining the finances of the race, club members’ commitment to the race, and after looking into a possible partnership with another club to keep the race going, we find that the race has come to the end of the road.
First, SMAC currently hosts many events, including the Ron Hebert Race, the New England Green River Marathon, the weekly summer Northampton 5ks, summer track workouts, summer and winter youth track programs, the Nancy Conz Run for the ACCRF, the Summit Run, the Mount Toby Trail Race, the 9K for K9, and the SMAC Series. These all make demands on our volunteer board and our pool of race volunteers.
Second, since losing a major sponsor several years ago, (and despite the herculean efforts of several race directors) the race has struggled to break even. The race is more expensive than other races because it requires renting an indoor space with showers and with the cold weather, we have traditionally provided hot food. Another expense is police coverage to ensure the safety of runners. With Amherst’s growth in residential and student population in the last 30 years, the route has become busier and safety is more of a concern. The race once generated revenue for the club, but in its last years incurred losses. The club now generates significant revenue from the New England Green River Marathon.
Third, the race had been attracting fewer runners. This used to be the only Boston “warm up” race around. Now there are several. To continue the race, we’d have to reduce costs to the point that it really would no longer be the same race. In its heyday, the race would see up to 800 runners. In it’s last year we had 174 runners, and only 19 SMAC members running the race.
And what of the Nancy Conz legacy? SMAC has also been putting on Nancy’s Run for the ACCRF in July. This race raises money for the AACRF and so seems a more fitting tribute to Nancy’s memory. The race is an official SMAC club race, with gear, timing, and volunteers provided, as well as insurance coverage. This lets us concentrate our efforts to honor Nancy in a single club event.
All of these considerations came together to lead us to our vote to take a break for one year so we have time to gauge support within our club for the race. This was a very difficult decision; this race has an important place in our club’s history.
Now, after a year of looking at the race closely and gauging our own club’s capacity, we have decided not to continue the race. We worked with another local running club on the possibility of continuing the race as a partnership, but after looking into it, they did not wish to move ahead with it, for many of the same reasons we saw. While many in SMAC mourned the loss of the race, the Board did not see a significant stepping forward of our membership to keep the race going. Races come and go, and clubs evolve. This is part of that cycle of change.