Athol River Rat Race

Posted on April 4th, 2023 to Local Partners by

The Athol River Rat Race is an annual event that takes place in the neighboring town of Athol, MA. The unique canoe race has a rich history, which dates back to the 1960s, and has become a beloved tradition for the people of Athol, Orange, surrounding communities in the North Quabbin, and even well beyond (last year’s winning pair was composed of an Athol native and a resident of Scotia, NY).

The history of the Athol River Rat Race can be traced back to a $2 wager among friends at an Athol watering hole. On March 21, 1964, a handful of locals paddled down Millers River from Athol into Orange, having no idea that the event would still be going strong nearly 60 years later.

In the early days of the event, the race was a low-key affair that attracted only a small group of participants. The course was simple: a 5 mile stretch of the Millers River starting near the center of Athol and ending near the center of Orange. The walking route is traced below, but the actual route obviously follows the river:

Over time, the event began to grow in popularity, and the race became more competitive as participants sought to set new records and prove their skill and endurance.

Today, the River Rat Race is a major event in the North Quabbin, and attracts participants from across the region and beyond. The race has a carnival-like atmosphere, with food vendors, music, and other activities for spectators to enjoy. A 5k road race was added years ago, and now hundreds of runners participate in that the morning of The River Rat Race.

Despite its growth and success, the River Rat Race has remained true to its roots as a celebration of the adventurous spirit and love of the outdoors that brought its founders together so many years ago. The event continues to be run entirely by volunteers with leadership from the Lions Clubs of both Athol and Orange.

The 58th running of the event takes place Saturday April 8, 2023. Good luck to all participants!

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