Run for the Boiler Experience the country’s hottest 15K race— in Central New York. By Brian PJ Cronin 66 | New York By Rail Amtrak.com I n the beginning, it was just about radiators. In 1978, the gang at Utica Radiator Corporation came up with the idea of a 15K (9.3 mile) road race to thank the community for letting the company power the town for 50 years. The local brewery, F.X. Matt Brewing Company, agreed to help out, so that summer, 876 hearty souls ran the first of what’s known as “the Boilermaker.” Flash forward to today: Utica Radiator Corporation has become part of ECR International, the F.X. Matt Brewing Company is known nationwide for its Saranac line of beers, and 18,000 people annually run what has turned into a weeklong celebration every July. The Boilermaker also includes a 5K run, kid’s race, wheelchair race and 3-mile walk, plus, every May, the Erie Canal Half Marathon. But the 15K race remains the highlight, with pumped- up spectators lining the course (the neighborhoods of Utica compete to see which one provides the most enthusiastic support), a fighter jet flyover, ample water stations and ice pops to counteract the heat, and bands of virtually every musical style along the course for additional inspiration. “A friend had said, ‘You have to do the Boilermaker at least once,’” says Chris Billings, a resident of Brewster who works as an administrative assistant at the Putnam County Department of Health and has run the race six times. “He was right,” she says. “It has the feel of the New York City Marathon in terms of crowd support in a beautiful country setting. The Boilermaker is more than a road race. It’s an experience.” Repeat Boilermaker runners like Billings are the norm, as the race offers advance registration for the following year to anyone who finishes it in a reasonable time, which encourages finishers to return year after year. Runners can also bask in the warm glow of contributing to the local community: Proceeds help fund the Boilermaker Urban Garden, which is run by local youths in cooperation with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the West Utica Public Market, which brings fresh, local produce to the “food desert” neighborhood of West Utica. And then there’s the after-party, billed on Boilermaker.com as “simply the best Post Race Party there is,” which is held every year at F.X. Matt Brewing Company. What better way to blow off some steam? The 39th Boilermaker Week begins on Thursday, July 6, and ends with the post-race party on Sunday, July 9, 2017. To find out more about this year’s event or about how to register for the 40th annual Boilermaker Week in 2018, visit boilermaker .com/registernow.