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Running on Martha’s Vineyard

Road Race Photo Credit M. Bossman

Over the past four decades Martha’s Vineyard has sprinted across the road racing horizon to become one of the most popular destinations for running.

Initially the only ‘game’ in town was the Chilmark Road Race which was first held in 1978. The famously hilly terrain over which the race typically takes place has never deterred participants even though the race is run mid-August, one of the warmest months of the Island calendar. As do many of the Island’s subsequent races, proceeds of the event are used towards charitable and community-centric causes. In the case of Chilmark’s race, proceeds support operations of the Chilmark Community Center and make scholarships available to year-round residents.

It has become apparent the fun of competing with fellow runners for a variety of worthy causes is a heady and popular combination. Though the Chilmark Road Race remains firmly ensconced as the granddaddy of all races to come, the Island now hosts a number of marathons, half marathons and race events for all age groups throughout the year.

Come mid-February the stark Island landscape, sometimes covered with random wisps of passing snow driven by a good stiff breeze out of the North, runners gather for MV Winter Classic 20-Miler and Amity Island Relay. For true grit runners the race is often run as a test course for the Boston Marathon and spring marathon events. For others, following the undulating shoreline of the Vineyard and passing through its small buttoned-up for winter towns offers a way to see the Island through the prism of a totally unique and memorable experience while racing a USATF-certified course. For those not up to 20 miles, an alternate is offered in the Amity Island Relay which allows the course to be completed by a team of two runners.

As summer approaches so do running opportunities. Summer on Martha’s Vineyard kicks off in many ways for each visitor. One of the most popular start-of-the-season events is the annual Memorial Day Road Race. Offered as both a virtual and in-person event, participants follow  a USATF certified 5K course that skirts the Gingerbread Cottages as it wends its way past the Oak Bluffs harbor and onward up  to the  outcropping on which East Chop Lighthouse stands. A one-mile kids’ fun run is also offered. Proceeds from the event support Hospice & Palliative Care of MV.

Sharing the August events calendar with the Chilmark Road Race, Amity Island 5K Race  (formerly Vineyard Scoops), Fun Run and Virtual 5K now share the namesake of the fictitious town of Amity featured in Jaws. Taking place in Edgartown, the race begins and ends at the Farm Institute. Runners pass the lush harvest-ready fields of the Institute on their way toward the ocean breakers of South Beach. In contrast to the hilly terrain confronting Chilmark runners the course of the Amity Island 5K is mercifully flat thanks to the sand plains typical of the Katama area. The race benefits local charities.

With these and other options throughout the year, it's easy to see why competitive running on Martha’s Vineyard has become the event of choice year after year for so many. Whether you are on a solo run as the sun tops the horizon, a proud parent cheering your little Fun Runner along on a mid summer’s day or are hardcore, hitting the pavement for a win and the thrill of the experience, the Island’s got the races if you've got the passion.

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