By Jay Kumar
---- — SALEM — With 819 registered runners, yesterday’s sixth annual Frosty Four Road Race set yet another record.
Salem’s New Year’s Day 4-mile running tradition continues to grow regardless of the weather conditions, which featured temperatures in the low 30s and strong headwinds for the last two miles.
Co-race director Shari Hewson of Salem’s Wicked Running Club said she was pleased with the turnout, which surpassed last year’s total. The race had plenty of last-minute signups, with a steady of line of runners registering inside the Tavern in the Square race headquarters right up until the 10 a.m. start time. Runners made their way from downtown Salem through the Willows and back.
James Pawlicki, 38, of Lynn won the race with a time of 22:21, a 5:36 per mile pace. David Corbett, 29, of Stoneham was second with a time of 23:06 (a 5:47 pace) while 50-year-old Jason Barnes of Salem was third in 23:29 (a 5:53 pace).
“This is a good way to start the year,” said Pawlicki, a Danvers native who previously lived in Beverly. “I’ve never started a year with a win before.”
Pawlicki got off to a good lead with the wind at his back for the first two miles and was able to maintain his advantage despite having the wind in his face for the final two miles.
Still, “I never looked back,” Pawlicki said. “I didn’t have anyone challenging me. That’s unusual.”
The top female finisher was Taylor Krajewski, 23, of Salem with a time of 27:48 (a 6:57 pace), followed by Gina Newton, 35, of North Chelmsford in 27:55 (6:59 pace) and Susan Collins-Pulic, 44, of Rowley in 28:18 (7:08 pace).
The Frosty Four was also part of the Road Runners Club of America’s (RRCA) Championship Event Series, which recognizes well-run events and presents awards to top runners by age group. The RRCA has also designated Salem as a Runner-Friendly Community.
The race capped off an impressive stretch of three Salem running events that each saw unexpectedly high turnouts, said Doug Bollen, chief operating officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem and race director of the Wild Turkey 5-mile race on Thanksgiving.
“From Wild Turkey to the Festivus 5K to this race, the running enthusiasm has taken off to new levels,” Bollen said. “I thought it would level off at some point but it hasn’t.”
Bollen attributes the increase in running interest in Salem and on the North Shore to two factors. More women are running than ever before, which has resulted in strong race registration numbers, he said. “And besides fitness, I’ve noticed the social part is taking off,” added Bollen.
In addition to road races, there are many more informal groups of runners gathering for regular runs, including the Danvers 5K every Wednesday night and a group of Salem runners who congregate every Thursday.
Timothy Short, recreation supervisor at the Salem Park, Recreation and Community Services Department and former president of the Wicked Running Club, is equally optimistic about the future of running in Salem and on the North Shore.
“I really don’t see the plateau coming,” he said. “The sky’s the limit now. The days of a race just being a race are no more; it needs to be an event.”
Short recently took over for Bollen as director of the Salem Race Series, which for 2013 kicked off with the Frosty Four and will feature four other events through the rest of the year. Between that series, the North Shore YMCA’s North Shore Road Race Series and the many other events scheduled, there are plenty of races to choose from in 2013.