There were parents who could run very fast and teachers who are strictly middle of the pack, youngsters who could out race most adults and a pair of superheroes – those would be The Mighty Thor (Ed Chen) and Captain America (Mike Worthington) – all who came to Belmont High School’s Harris Field on Sunday to race either over five kilometers and a flat mile.
The racers also brought a great deal of heart as more than 700 runners – both fast and not so fast – participated in the second annual Dan Scharfman Memorial Run 5K on a brilliant autumn morning, Oct. 5.
“We even had more people come out than last year that is fantastic and the day is gorgeous, so it was perfect running weather. We’re thrilled,” said Jamie Shea, president of the Foundation for Belmont Education.
The race is held to raise money – with the hope to top $20,000 from this year’s race – for the foundation’s education innovation fund, the goal of the man for which the race is named.
Dan Scharfman was a school committee member and a long-time supporter of education and the performing arts who sought to bring technology into the classrooms by teaching Belmont educators “the tools and the practices that they need in order to bring innovative techniques into the classroom,” said Shea.
After his untimely death from a heart attack in Jan. 2013, the FBE decided to hold a road race in Scharfman’s memory – Dan was a dedicated ultra-distance runner – with the aim to assist in the foundation’s four-year, $450,000 Innovation Teaching Initiative campaign. This spring, the foundation funded $50,000 for professional development in all grades and curriculum.
For Iris Ponte, leading the four-member Henry Frost Children’s Program team, the race was to remember “Dan, who was an awesome guy.” She can recall when she was a lifeguard at the Underwood Pool, “we would keep the pool open for him so at the end of his big runs he would come flying into the deep end almost every evening.”
“The town has not been the same without him,” said Ponte.
It’s that sort of memory that Rachel Scharfman hopes the annual race will rekindle each year it’s run. Rachel – who with her brother, Jacob (who also sang the National Anthem), aunt and mother, Muriel Kummer, participated in the race – recalls her father being a community leader, runner, friend and, now, an inspiration.
“His biggest passions are combined today in this one event,” she said.
“I know once a year, this town will gather to support the Dan Scharfman Education Innovation Fund. We’ll come together not to mourn but to carry forward Dan’s great loves; running and education.”
Moved up from November to October, this year’s race would be competing with nearly 30 established road races in the crowded fall running calendar. In addition, several long-standing charity events were taking place in Boston and surrounding communities. But came they did, in greater numbers than the first race.
With the help from the Belmont High School Volleyball team – which was spread around the course as marshals and timekeepers – and a hoard of volunteers, the race was successfully completed under a bright warm sun on the cool fall morning.
Racers climbed from Harris Field to the Payson Park Res before starting back down Goden Street before taking a lap around Clay Pit Pond and returning to Harris. The one-milers sped around the “Pit” before sprinting home.
Along the route, the runners passed four of Belmont’s six public schools in another tribute to Scharfman.
As for the winners, Chris Leitz of Watertown (in 17:26.1) took first followed by Belmontian’s Joe Shaw and Belmont High senior cross country captain Ari Silverfine. Rachel Henke of Cambridge (20:15.9) was the top woman with Belmont teacher Sara Saba-Sher second and Christy Lawrence third. In the one mile, Chris Burge broke six minutes by a hair in 5:59.4 followed by Shea Brams in 6:10.4.
“It feels great to finish in the top three,” said Silverfine, just as the race announcer urged all the runners to tell their friends “I ran the Dan!”
“But this is real special because I know the Scharfman family and Dan was a great man.”