It sounds as if it all started in David Bale’s kitchen one evening about 50 years ago.
David Bale, an avid runner, had developed the perfect running route and he had a great idea about how to share it—make it into a road race. So, he called his running buddy David Hildreth, and the Granby Track Coach Dennis Lobo to discuss the idea of turning this magical running route into a race. Victoria Bale-Saunders shared with the YMCA Granby Road Race Committee how she remembers Lobo, Hildreth and her father “in the kitchen at night after work talking about the race and planning for the race.” The Granby Road Race was special from the beginning because of the novelty of having a local race, the quick turnaround time on race results, and how women were encouraged to race.
At that time, there were not that many road races, and the races that were around were certainly not a set mileage like our 10ks and 5ks that we know so well. There also were not as many runners as there are today and casual running was not a thing yet. In this running climate, the Granby Road Race was born.
The race founders were excited to see a huge participation in the first several years of the Granby Road Race. Not just any participants—elite runners were running their 6.4-mile course while training for the Boston Marathon and the Olympic Trials. The 6.4-mile race began right in front of Granby High school, coursed downhill on Route 10 to Canton Road before taking a turn into McLean Game Refuge for several miles of hilly trail running, and then back onto Route 10 to finish on an uphill climb to the high school.
The town of Granby has always embraced the race and helped to make it possible. Volunteers from the community have always been aplenty. The Granby C.E.R.T., Granby Ambulance and Granby Police have supported the race course, and the Game Refuge has welcomed the Road Race through its trails.
Looking back at the race’s roots, it is interesting to see how much the race has changed over the years. That 6.4-mile race gradually morphed into a classic 10k or 6.2-mile race. The race did allow women to run—not a given at that time. “They were encouraging everyone to run because they just loved running,” Bale-Saunders commented.
In 1988, Dave Schupp, who had been playing a huge role in the logistics of the race, experienced the tragic death of his son, Dave Schupp, Jr., in whose memory the race is now run. Dave Jr. was killed by an automobile while running. His friends found solace in running the Granby Road Race in his memory and his memory continues to live on in this race. In 2012, Dave Schupp linked up the Granby Road Race and the YMCA as he thought the race would be a wonderful fundraiser for an organization he felt strongly about. The YMCA has embraced the Granby Road Race, added a 5k component to include more people, and is able to fund summer camps for children in the community with the proceeds.
The date of the Granby Road Race has also been adjusted a few times. Originally on Earth Day, it quickly made a debut on Memorial Day until more events pushed the road race to earlier in May. The race hung out on the first weekend of May for many years until the 2020 COVID pandemic pushed it to September. Last year, the 49th running of the Granby Road Race had quite a large turnout, in part because there were so few road races that year, much like the races originally run in the 1970s.
The progress of the race is fascinating as you take the time to look back at it. A small-town race for elite runners turned into a (still) small town race focused on inclusivity, healthy lifestyles, and community support. Dennis Lobo, the surviving founder of the race, is pleased that the race has continued and with what it has become. He suspects his co-founders would be pleased as well.
For more information about sponsorships and giving, please visit the YMCA website at ghymca.org If you are interested in volunteering for this race please email Brian Liss at granbyroadrace@GHYMCA.org
Register today at ghymca.org/granbyroadrace