A chat with... Steve Lobell
Russell, Lobdell said, knew he was into running. “Being a little naive, a new lieutenant and not wanting to cross my boss, I said, sure, why not.” More than 30 years later, and retired from the department after 34 years, Lobdell still directs the race, now known as the Faxon Law Fairfield Half Marathon. “I figured, how much work could it be,” Lobdell said.
The half marathon will be held Sunday, preceded on Saturday by a 5k run. Lobdell, a lifelong town resident, talked with the Fairfield Citizen about the event.
FC:When the did the half marathon start, and why was it started?
Lobdell: With the help of a hard working group of Fairfield firefighters, our first half marathon started in June of 1981. We also put on a five-mile race with each event having around 165 runners. I think the one thing helping our event the most was the decision from the onset that if we put on a great race for the runners and gave back to the community, that over time the money would come. Since it's inception, the Fairfield firefighters have hosted the event and have been the catalyst for its success. It is important to include our title sponsor, Faxon Law, who has supported us ,and our causes, for nearly a decade.
FC: There are many elite runners who now participate. When did the race start to draw those runners, and why is it attractive to them?
Lobdell: Elite athletes first became interested in our event when we hosted the Women's United States championships in the 80's, as well as the U.S. Masters half marathon championships. The year the Olympics were hosted in Barcelona, Spain, two of the three members of the U.S. Olympic team competed and the winner of our race, Steve Spence, finished 8th in the Olympic Marathon. Obviously, the elite athletes run for prize money, but I believe they know that the quality of the event is good, and people love our beautiful course.
FC: How many volunteers are needed to put on both the half marathon and the 5k the day before?
Lobdell: This year, the Faxon Law Fairfield 1/2 Marathon and 5k will have nearly 700 people to assist. Four hundred volunteers will man the water stations, the Fairfield YMCA brings nearly 70 volunteers, and the Fairfield Beach Residents Associations provides over 60 volunteers for the 5k on Saturday. During the days around race weekend, nearly half of the Fairfield Fire Department personnel donate their time, providing manpower and equipment. Over 25 members of CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team, assists with traffic control and the Fairfield Amateur Radio Association is out at every mile along the 1/2 marathon course. In the wake of the Boston Marathon attack, all branches of our emergency services donate many hours of expertise so that we can continue to have a safe and fun event.
FC: How much money has been raised via the race, and what charities benefit?
Lobdell: Many non-profits use our race as a means to raise money, rather that have to put on their own events. Over the years, several million dollars has been raised in this manner. Our signature charity is The Hole in the Wall Gang who joined up with us three years ago.
FC: Have you ever run in the half marathon?
Lobdell: I ran the 1/2 in 1982, our second year. It was a blast until I finished, and all the volunteers got on my case for not working....a lesson learned.