During the 50's and early 60's, Schaefer Day was an annual sports-oriented event, with swimming contests at the Ocean Beach Pool, auto races at the Waterford Speed Bowl, and a fireworks show at the New London Pier. In 1963 event sponsor F & F Distributors representing the F & M Schaefer Brewing Company met with Beach Manager Tony Pero, also attending the meeting were, John Priolo, Anthony Sabilia, and John Dempsey.
The plan was to organize a 12 mile road race on the roads of New London and Waterford, starting and finishing at Ocean Beach Park. A plan was adapted for the race which is always held on the first Saturday in August. From inception, race has been no entry fee. The first running of the Schaefer Race in 1963 drew 19 starters and was won by John J. Kelley, a native of New London, then living in Mystic with a time of 54:51.4 over the 10.5 mile course. The 1957 Boston Marathon Champion, Kelley won the first two races, followed by three straight wins for Amby Burfoot, the 1968 Boston Marathon Champion. Another local runner, New York City Marathon Champion Norm Higgins won the race in 1970.
Over the years the course distance has changed several times due to road construction. Traditionally starting at noon, moved to 10:00 a.m. in 1980, and moved to 9:00 a.m. in 1989. The race was billed "for serious runners only" and the quality of winners backed this claim. Women first appeared in the Schaefer race in 1970 when Nina Kuscik of New York finished in 72nd place. That year the race had 148 entries, topping the 100 mark for the first time. Race Director, John Priolo changed the race name in 1974 to the John J. Kelley Road Race, as an expression of gratitude for the veteran runner's many road racing accomplishments.
In 1977 the race attracted 204 runners, sending the entry list over 200 for the first time. When John Priolo moved to Florida, Anthony Sabilia and John Dempsey took over as race co-directors and in 1989 they passed the reins to Way Hedding. In 2003 Jessie Kelley's name was added to the the race title following her death in 2003. In 2012 the race drew 758 official entries. Selected by New England Runner Magazine "2012 Race of the Year". "One of New England's top 80 Best of the Best Road Races" New England Runner 2006-2018. 2016 Connecticut Cup Championship Race.
Race distance was changed to a Half Marathon in 2017 and drew over 1,000 entries.
Third leg of the Kelley's Pace Shoreline Trifecta.
The 2020 Kelley Half Marathon was changed to a virtual event due to State of Connecticut Covid-19 Restrictions which were in place at that time.
We are planning on a live race for 2023, Official Race Start at 8:00 am, Course will close at Noon!
Beach Manager Dave Sugrue and his very capable Staff will be on hand to insure that everything runs smoothly at the beach.
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