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Boilermaker 2009 in the history books

By By ANDREW DONOVAN

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Boilermaker 2009 is now in the history books with a weekend full of events coming to a close Sunday. Tens of thousands of people were involved in the week's many festivities including the Health & Fitness Expo to the events all weekend to participating in the premier events on Sunday.

Sunday morning started off with chilly weather which seemed to be good conditions for the runners. An early morning was had for just about anyone involved in the day's events. Utica Police began locking down the area and closing streets around 6:00 a.m.

Hundreds of people were up early along the course including race officials, volunteers, police and security, medical staffs and multiple media outlets.

As always, the first event of the morning was the start of the 5K Road Race and training run. About 2,500 runners took off from Burrstone Road and made their way to the F.X. Matt Brewery. The man who won the race is not from the area but certainly has local connections. Steve Finley was the first to cross the finish line and hails from Virginia but knows about the race because his father and grandfather grew up in Utica.

The wheelchair division of the road race is always thrilling to the crowds. These racers took off from East Utica as usual, 15 minutes before the 15K official start.

The signature 15K Road Race began as scheduled at 8:00 a.m. to the traditional shotgun start. As always, thousands of runners file through the start line on Earle C. Reed Way the begin their 9.3 mile trek through the City of Utica.

Last year, the start line is where massive problems began. The chip timing system that was debuted in 1999 failed at the start line due to equipment interference.

Boilermaker officials and Leone Timing officials guaranteed that the issues had been resolved and it looks like they were accurate as elite runners were the first to see their results. A very tight race ensued and then the final stretch became a show down between Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco and Bazu Worku Hayla of Ethiopia.

27-year-old Ridouane Harroufi of Morocco pulled out in front with just the final steps remaining. He won his first Boilermaker Road Race with an official finishing time of 43:56, beating Hayla by one second.

One of the most exciting moments of the day seemed to be when Vivian Bales approached and crossed the Finish Line. Vivian Bales' son, Brian, left for Iraq in January. Two days after he left, she started to run and the goal is to not stop until she runs the same amount of miles that separate her from her son.

Bales approached the Finish Line with an escort carrying an orange flag. The crowd roared into applause as she crossed and a flurry of media rushed to her for interviews.

NBC News' Today Show also made an appearance at the 2009 Boilermaker in order to tell Bales' story. Bob Dotson who hosts the American Story series came with a slew of NBC crew members. Bales has also been featured in Sports Illustrated.

The entire weekend's events culminated at the famed F.X. Matt Brewery with the Post-race Party. The race is known for ending at a brewery were runners can enjoy their free Saranac beer. Spectators rave over the F-16 flyover performed by the 174th Air National Guard that comes in on schedule with the singing of the national anthem. To people's dismay this will be the final year for the F-16 flyover because the base out of Syracuse is switching to unmanned drone air-crafts.

Boilermaker weekend started Friday with the Health & Fitness Expo held at the Masonic Care Community. About 30,000 people flock to the campus to pick up racing packets, check out local vendors and get in the mood for Boilermaker Sunday.

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