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Celtic Canter 5k!

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Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 4:28 pm, Wed Mar 5, 2014.

After three years of running, beer and Irish fare in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the annual Celtic Canter in Westminster is expanding in distance and activities for its fourth anniversary on March 15.

The race has been extended from the previous distance of three miles to a full 5K, according to founder and race director Patrick Gallagher, and will be electronically timed.


“In the first three years, we were timing it manually,” Gallagher said. “To attract real [serious] runners, we needed to make it a 5K [and] we needed to migrate or evolve into electronic timing.”

While in past years the Celtic Canter had only been a race and post-race meal organized between Gallagher and O’Lordan’s Irish Pub, this year’s event — retitled the Celtic Canter and Irish Celebration — adds the City of Westminster as an active partner and numerous new downtown activities, according to Missie Wilcox, marketing consultant for the City of Westminster.

“We worked together to add some new events like the Leprechaun Chase, a one mile kids’ fun run,” Wilcox said. “There will be Irish arts and crafts, balloon art, face painting and we are also doing some ‘highland games,’ caber toss and rock toss.”

The idea behind the new activities, Wilcox said, is to build an event that encourages people to spend a little more time in Westminster after the race.

“Previously, they would run, maybe get a beer at O’Lordan’s and then go home,” she said. “We hope families will cheer their family member on and then shop and experience downtown.”

The 5K race will begin at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Green and Bond streets and follow a new course that keeps the race closer to downtown, according to Abby Gruber, director of the Westminster Department of Recreation and Parks. The new course heads east on Main Street at the start and finishes by heading back along Green Street to a finish near the starting line.

After the race, each participant of legal age will be treated to a free beer at O’Lordan’s Irish Pub — soft drinks for those under 21 — where prizes for the winners will also be announced, according to Gallagher.

At 10 a.m., the Leprechaun Chase, which Gruber said is open to children ages 10 and younger, will begin at Belle Grove Square near the start of the 5K and will circle the square in a clover leaf pattern.

“All the children will receive a race number and each child that crosses the finish line will get a participation medal,” Gruber said. “In an effort to get our participants to migrate downtown, all children will get a special prize, but they have to go to the library with their race number to get it.”

Irish craft tables, face painting and a balloon artist will be set up inside the Westminster Branch of the Carroll County Public Library, according to Gruber, while the library lawn will be devoted to demonstrations and child-friendly versions of “highland games” such as caber toss — the throwing of large wooden poles, cardboard tubes in this case — stone put and maide leisg.

“[Maide leisg] is a seated event where you sit sole to sole and both competitors hold onto a stick and the object is to see who can pull the other from a sitting position,” Gruber said. “We will also have a Blarney Stone and we’ll do a kiss the Blarney Stone where you actually have to bend over backwards to kiss the stone.”

Children will also have the opportunity to collect a “pot of gold” in the form of plastic gold coins that will be distributed by businesses along Main Street. Children that visit a participating business will collect one or more coins in a black, plastic caldron that will then be redeemable for Irish themed prizes at a Leprechaun Store inside the library, according to Gruber.

Irish folk band Ceol Anam Cara will also perform live at the library stage from 10 a.m. until noon, Gruber said.

All of the activities except the 5K race are free, according to Gruber, and while race day registration will be available for the 5K, preregistration by March 12 is preferred and available online at www.runningmaryland.com/registration/event_details.php?eid=72.

Registration will be $30 per runner in advance and $35 on race day, with proceeds going to benefit Carroll County Children’s Fund Inc., Access Carroll and Target Community and Educational Services, Inc.

There were 300 runners registered for the event at press time, according to Gruber, and there is no set limit for the number of racers.

This is by design, according to Gallagher, who was inspired to start the Celtic Canter by a visit to Baltimore’s St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock 5K.

“The run in Baltimore cuts off at 5,000 runners and yet there are still a lot of people that would like to do it,” he said. “To create something that mimics that race or is equally competitive as a 5K is going to attract those people that maybe couldn’t get into the run in the city.”

Creating a premier race event will not only create fun for locals, Gallagher said, but will draw runners and their families from around the region and introduce them to Westminster, some perhaps for the first time.

“I think it’s a win-win on the charitable contribution level, for the business community and for people to just have something athletic to do at a time of year when it’s cold out, rainy out and spring is just beginning,” Gallagher said. “I hope it grows into a running festival for Westminster that they can really wrap their hands around and take pride in.”