Unlike years past, 1,000 runners won’t descend on the park for the annual Esplanade 5K footrace this June, but instead, the Esplanade Association’s Virtual 5K will allow participants to make the trek at their own pace and on any route they choose while still supporting the park.
“It’s one of the most popular and largest events we sponsor each year, and while we couldn’t gather a thousand to run in the park, we wanted to find a way to remember and celebrate the people who love running on the Esplanade, and that includes people from all across the country,” said Michael Nichols, executive director of the nonprofit. “We wanted to keep the race going in a way that’s safe for everyone, and this is the only way we could think of for people to continue running a race in the park.”
Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which partners with the Esplanade Association on the 5K each year, the virtual footrace takes place between Monday, June 1, and Sunday, June 7. Participants can run or walk 5K (3.1 miles) anywhere in the world during that timeframe. They can capture their time using the Strava or Garmin apps, or any other way they choose, and submit their results to the Esplanade Association, which will in turn list them on the leaderboard at Esplanade.org/Esplanade5K. And if participants take a selfie along their route, they can share it on Twitter (@EsplanadeBoston) or Instagram (@EsplanadeinBoston).
“This format will allow several hundred people to run on the Esplanade, but just not together,” Nichols said. “Instead, they will run one or two at a time at their own convenience over a one week-long period. We expect to have people from all over the country who will run three miles for the Esplanade, and that’s great.”
Among those expected to participate is a former Beacon Hill resident who now lives in from Jackson Hole, Wyo.
“She loved running on the Esplanade when she lived here and was thrilled to hear about the virtual footrace,” said Nichols, who first mentioned the new initiative to her a couple of weeks ago during an unrelated work call.
Participants can purchase bibs for $20, although they will be provided free to service workers (fire, police, medical, etc.), or individuals who have recently lost their jobs and can’t afford to buy one. Proceeds will benefit the ongoing care and upkeep of the Esplanade.
“We’ll also mail commemorative bibs to people no matter where they are,” Nichols said, “and if people sign up early enough, the goal is to get them the bibs in time for the race.”
All participants will also receive a Virtual Race Bag, including coupons from Athletic Brewing and NOCA beverages while the top three men and women overall will receive a prize pack from Athletic Brewing.
To register for the Virtual 5k, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/esplanade-virtual-5k-presented-by-blue-cross-blue-shield-of-massachusetts-tickets-104040558110.
On April 23, Nichols also led the first Instagram Virtual Tour of the park. He was joined by Margo Newman, former chair of the Esplanade Association, and Jim Doyle, the nonprofit’s horticulture manager.
“We kind of started by Arlington Street near the Hatch Shell and walked down to the Dartmouth Street footbridge,” Nichols said. “We went on both sides of the lagoon and essentially did an oval.”
On the tour, Newman pointed out sites such as the Lotta Fountain and the Hatch Shell lawn, both of which the Esplanade Association has heavily invested in over the last few years, while Doyle discussed the upkeep of the lawn and other features of the park.
For those who can’t physically visit the Esplanade right now, the Virtual Tour allows them to enjoy the park during an optimal time.
“It’s peak bloom right now for flowers and tress,” Nichols said. “We wanted to share with people who might not be able to be in the park, what’s going on there as of late while sprinkling in some nuggets of the Esplanade’s history and long record of projects in the park by the Esplanade Association.”
Nichols said “a couple of hundred” viewers tuned in live on Instagram, but he expects that many more will watch the Virtual Tour now that it’s available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDtt1EE2msM.