‘We do it for the fun of it,' Shelton racer says of holiday trek

For Regina Lombardi, it was a new experience.

The Shelton resident has long admired the always-updated T-shirts for the Commodore Hull Thanksgiving Day 5K Road Race, and now was ready to wear the 2014 version as a race participant.

“I always wanted to run this race,” Lombardi said as she prepared for the annual race.

For Rob Manger of Shelton, the race has become a family tradition. He was at the starting line with son Charles, 13.

In most recent years, he’d also been joined by his wife, daughter and sister. “We do it for the fun of it, for the experience, and to get outside,” Manger said.

Charles also finds the race fun, and was looking forward to the turkey and trimmings being prepared by other family members.

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Mayor Mark Lauretti has run in every one of the 13 Commodore Hull races. This year he was doubling as the honorary starter — shooting the cap gun just before taking off on the five-kilometer run in Shelton and Derby.

“I do it for self-preservation,” joked the mayor, who played European pro basketball when much younger. “I’ve been doing it for years — from day one.”

Shelton High grad wins race

The winner of this year’s race was Bobby Giuliani, a 2009 Shelton High graduate who now lives in West Hartford. He crossed the finish line a few seconds before Tim Milenkevich of Ansonia, who won the race last year.

“I feel happy,” Giuliani said after the race. “Tim beat me the past three years. It’s been a real good rivalry.”

Finishing time was 15:05 for Giuliani, who is studying to become a physical therapist at the University of Hartford.

The top female finisher was Lauren Flament of Shelton. Her time was 19:17.

About 750 people registered for the race and almost 600 runners completed the race, which raises funds for the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley.

Since its founding, the race has raised about $120,000 for what event emcee Tom Wilson calls “one of the best organizations in the Valley.”

Weather factor

Most runners were relieved the weather never got as bad as predicted, with a snowstorm having been forecast for the previous night.

Instead, it had rained a lot. At the 8 a.m. race time on Thanksgiving Day, conditions were good for running — slightly chilly, and no precipitation falling.

The course was altered slightly this year due to the storm on Wednesday, with runners staying on Canal Street in Shelton and the Derby Greenway, rather than traversing streets in the two downtowns. They had to avoid state roads because of possible snow removal operations.

The route “will be a little tight this year” on the greenway, Wilson told runners at the start.

Before starting the race, Lauretti urged people to “reflect back on what a good year we’ve had” and to also think of U.S. troops serving their country.

“I intend to contend this year,” Lauretti then told his fellow runners.

Moral support for family members

Bob Donofrio of Shelton was watching his wife, Danielle, and mother, Patricia, run in the race for the first time. His wife has run in other races in the past.

“It seems a little early, being before any football games, but it’s not bad,” he said of getting up so early on the holiday to be a spectator and provide moral support.

Other people also lined Canal Street, with some holding signs to offer encouragement to loved ones.

The race began and ended in Shelton, next to Veterans Memorial Park (the Riverwalk).

“We got a race!” Wilson shouted as Giuliani and Milenkevich ran through the Shelton Riverwalk and neared the finish line.