Community gears up for River Rat Race weekend

Runners braved the rain for the Big Cheese 5K in 2022 as part of the River Rat Race festivities.

Runners braved the rain for the Big Cheese 5K in 2022 as part of the River Rat Race festivities. FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 04-09-2024 5:01 PM

ATHOL – While the River Rat Race is the star, there will be plenty more to watch and enjoy this weekend.

Things get underway Friday night, April 12, with the drawing of positions in Memorial Hall at Athol Town Hall. Drawings begin promptly at 7 p.m. Anyone unable to attend will have to pick up their race numbers at Else Where, 1485 Main St., near the Uptown Common. Numbers must be picked up by 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Several events that traditionally add to the April 13 race day festivities will be featured again this year. Getting things started that morning will be the annual Rat Race Pancake Breakfast, sponsored by the North Quabbin Lodge of Masons. Flapjacks will be served up from 7-11 a.m.

The yearly Big Cheese 5K run will step off from the front of Athol Town Hall at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. To register online, go to before midnight on Friday and the cost is $25. Registration on the day of the race is $30 and takes place from 8-9:15 a.m. in the gym at the Athol area YMCA. Payment must be made via the web site for those registering on Saturday. The event has been sponsored each year since 2010 by the Athol Area YMCA. All proceeds go to the Y’s “Prescribe the Y Programming,” which, according to the race web site, “allows exercise programming to support the community focused around health and wellness initiatives.” The race is open to runners of all abilities and some participants will walk away with a block of Smith’s Country Cheese.

The River Rat Promenade begins wending its way down School Street and onto Main Street on Saturday at 9:35 a.m., immediately following the start of the Big Cheese 5K. The popular parade is sponsored by the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce, with race-day assistance from the Athol Fire Department. Representatives of public service and civic organizations, schools, and public safety departments will be featured.

A number of vendors offering sweets, food and a variety of novelties will be posted along Main Street throughout the day.

Pre-race activities get under way at 12:30 p.m. Spectators may line up on either bank of the Miller’s River south of Athol’s Main Street Bridge, on the Main Street Bridge, or on the western bank north of the bridge. Those lining up on the Main Street Bridge must follow directions of the Athol Police.

Canoes will enter the water and line up on the east bank according to their post numbers. Paddlers are strongly urged to get their boats in the water by 12:30 p.m. and at their post position by 12:45 p.m. to await the starting cannon.

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The cannon will sound at 1 p.m. and paddlers will begin their 5.2-mile journey from Alan E. Rich Environmental Park in Athol to Riverfront Park in Orange. Awards will be handed out beginning at 5 p.m. next to Billy Goat Boats. To be eligible for prize money, paddlers must first pass a post-race inspection.

Greg Vine can be reached at