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Runners Show Holiday Spirit at Fairfield Race

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – A record number of runners found the holiday spirit Sunday when 306 finishers hit the tape at the 5-kilometer Holiday Run for Toys at the Scandinavian Club in Fairfield.

Fairfield’s Christopher Barrett and Wilton’s Amy Bevilaqua finished first in the men’s and women’s divisions. The big winners, however, were the children who will receive toys from the runners. Besides a small registration fee, each entrant was required to donate one item to be given to a needy area child.

“I’m not sure why it’s a record field,’’ race director Marty Schiavone said. “Almost all of the races have been up this year. We had good advertising and a little bit more promotion at the Colony Grill race in Fairfield last month. It’s also the last race of the year for a lot of people.  I think that all played a part in it.”

Barrett finished in 17:57.7, followed by Diego Vegas of New York and Travis Wooten of Riverhead. Bevilaqua was fifth overall in 18:36.3. Helen Merkle of Trumbull was the second woman in 19:33.9, and Norwalk’s Julie Heaphy was third in 20:18.8.

The race results were secondary to the cause, however, as runners brought all sorts of toys to the drop-off, including Mr. Potato Heads, Barbie dolls, Play-Doh and board games. Bins provided by race sponsor William B. Meyer, a moving and storage company, were stuffed with toys. The race has been held for 13 years.

The race drew runners from all over, including upstate Connecticut and Long Island, N.Y. Some runners showed their holiday spirit with a woman dressed as Santa Claus (the fittest St. Nick one will ever see), a man dressed as an elf pushing a baby jogger and people with Santa hats. With temperatures in the 20s at race start, most runners dressed seasonally appropriate while a few hardy souls bared arms and legs.

“I hate to say any race is my favorite,’’ said Schiavone, a Trumbull resident who is the race director for multiple events in the county. “But I do like this race. It’s for a great cause, and the runners have been terrific in their support, even on days where we haven’t always had the best conditions.”

Schiavone, a Trumbull teacher, is retiring at the end of the school year and relocating to Virginia. He is connected with 22 races in the county but plans to return for some of them. “Some of them I’m worried about,’’ Schiavone said. “I think this race is one that will be able to continue for a long time.”

Complete results are available online .

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