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A race and half a lifetime of memories for Luti

There are certain things in life that happen year after year that ground us somehow. As humans, we strive for predictability and routine even as we seek thrills and challenges. For runners in greater New Hampshire, along with runners in the “Coach Luti Alumni” community, the Bill Luti Race is one such event.

Road races come and come and go. Most of the races that take place in Concord now are less than 10 years old … and many of them take place at NHTI under the direction of Tom Walton and/or Perry Seagroves, two gentlemen who have kept the running community thriving in recent years. But the name Bill Luti has and always will evoke in runners a special feeling. It is why hundreds turn out year after year on a typically hot day to run a difficult 5-mile course.

Tomorrow, the 46th running of the Bill Luti Race will take place, as it has since its inception, at Memorial Field. Formerly the Concord 5 Miler, Coach Luti started it to give his runners an opportunity to get a hard race in over the summer to guide their training. I was 4 years old when he organized that first race; I will turn 50 this summer. Coach was 46 that first year and will be 92 in November. The race has lasted half his current lifetime … numbers are funny that way. (Or not.)

Coach will be there to mix and mingle with his “athletes” as he always is, although he will not trek to the start or give the two-mile split. (Those darn numbers again.) All of the attention makes him uncomfortable, but he knows how much we love him and he clearly loves us. As co-race director with Bob Teschek for many years, this event is a labor of love for me. Mr. Luti is, perhaps, the most important and positive male role model, teacher and mentor I have ever had. He is simply a good man.

In the spirit of promoting and sharing “good” as Coach has always done, the sponsors I sought out to provide the prizes this year represent good health, sportsmanship, loyalty and fun, all qualities that Coach Luti endorsed in his coaching.

Northeast Delta Dental, the primary sponsor, promotes and underwrites not just big events like this one, but small local events statewide. President and CEO Tom Raffio runs them all.

New this year are associate sponsors White Mountain Crossfit and Joe Kings Shoe Store.

White Mountain CrossFit is a new Concord business owned by Concord High School (and Coach Barb) Alumni Brad Newbery and Concord “newbie” Jon Farwell. Many of the workouts I do there remind me of practices run by Coach Luti, as they are led in the spirit of teamwork and sportsmanship. We are constantly reminded by the staff that working out and reaching athletic goals is a part of life that will not only get us fit and healthy but prepare us for what is really important, the things that happen outside the gym.

Joe Kings is perhaps the only business on Main Street older than this race. My mother got her school shoes there as a child and I vividly remember sitting up high on the red wooden bench getting fitted for my school shoes by “old Mr. King.” I take my children there now. A family business, it is obvious that the longevity and success of Joe Kings come from the kind, supportive and knowledgeable manner in which they treat their clientele.

Flipz Gymnastics, Sue Plant Massage and Margaritas round out the sponsors.

Flipz, a locally owned gymnastics school was created by Robyn and Dale Grant, a couple who base all of their programs on the assumption and belief that children should be happy, supported and fit. As an employee, I can vouch for the positive atmosphere in this gym. From the small pre-school babies to the elite level gymnasts, everyone’s needs are met with kindness.

Sue Plante gives a great massage. She runs her business primarily out of the office of Veronica Whitten, another lifelong resident of Concord with rich ties to Concord’s athletic community. She listens to what her clients tell her and responds with the perfect massage. This is a wonderful thing!

Margaritas, a longtime sponsor of the race, still runs its Concord restaurant out of the old police station. When they were asked by their corporate leaders to decrease their associate sponsorship, they were still willing to participate at a smaller level. This eatery is another longtime downtown spot.

So along with a chance to visit Coach Luti, volunteer at a water stop, run the race, or just come to watch, it is clear that the third weekend in July has, for many years, belonged to Coach Luti and the running community he helped create here in Concord. It is an honor and a privilege to direct this event and be a part of his legacy. Come to Memorial Field at 8 a.m. and sign up to run, or find me and I will give you a job, or find Coach Luti under the shady trees and have a chat. Whatever your pleasure, one thing is for sure, with the support of the running community, and all of our sponsors, this year’s race will be the best one yet.

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