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A Race to Get Shamrock Shuffle Up and Running

The calendar says spring began Thursday. The streets of downtown Lebanon say otherwise.

Department of Public Works crews will be busy on Kimball Street and Shaw Street today, trying to remove enough snow to allow the annual Shamrock Shuffle 5-kilometer road race take place safely along its normal route Saturday.

A fundraiser to benefit youth scholarship programs offered by Lebanon’s Department of Recreation and Parks, the Shamrock Shuffle draws more than 1,000 runners annually. It was postponed for only the second time in its 13-year history last week after a two-day snowstorm made it unsafe for participants and motorists to share Bank Street.

After another 3-4 inches of snow fell Wednesday night and Thursday, the problem area is now the neighborhood block just south of Bank Street, where the race normally begins — off South Street (New Hampshire Route 120).

“The condition of those roads are poor in general, with some pretty bad potholes,” said Lebanon recreation director Paul Coats, who also directs the race. “With more than 1,000 runners all taking off at once, it’s hard enough to avoid those without all of the snow. We’ve got to make sure that area is in the best shape it can be.”

If necessary, the course will be re-routed to begin on Bank Street — normally the finish line area — to avoid Kimball Street and Shaw Street. After reconnecting with its normal path through the Riverdale neighborhood and to the Memorial Pool, the route would double back on Pumping Station Road and enter the Northern Rail Trail for the final stretch back to the downtown area.

Instead of culminating at the end of Bank Street abutting Colburn Park, the race, instead, would finish up at the rail trail’s western terminus on Spencer Street, across from the Carter Community Building Association.

Coats on Thursday received permission to use the state-owned rail trail, a 48-mile multiuse recreation path extending from Boscawen, N.H., to Lebanon. He isn’t concerned about conditions on the trail.

“The Northern Rail Trail is constantly being groomed by snowmobilers and runners,” Coats said. “We don’t expect it to be too much of an icy mess. But if we do have to re-route it there, runners might want to consider bringing (ice cleats). With conditions like this, it isn’t likely anyone will be setting any personal records, so people should wear whatever’s going to be best on their feet.”

Coats, who has been part of the event since its inception in 2002, said the Shamrock Shuffle has encountered late-winter snow trouble in the past — but never quite like this.

“We had to postpone it one other year, I believe in 2004,” he said. “We were right back at it the next week and the snow was virtually gone. What we’ve dealt with this week is pretty unbelievable.”

A decision to stick to the normal route or divert part of it to the rail trail will be made by this afternoon, Coats said.