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UP CLOSE: 20 years before Ironman

Borzilleris launched multi-discipline racing here in 1979

July 20, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Bill Borzilleri stood at the starting line with an arm raised and gun in his hand.

"On your mark. Get set. Go." he shouted.

He fired the pistol and took off running with his wife, Judy, by his side.

Article Photos

Judy and Bill Borzilleri pose at their home in Lake Placid. The two started the Over Hill and Dale, a run and swim race, in 1979 at the Whiteface Inn Country Club. Now, nearly 40 years later, their son Greg is reviving the event for one more go-around.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

That was the scene in 1979 at the first Over Hill and Dale race, a 5K run and 400-meter swim the couple started at the Whiteface Inn Country Club as a way to attract more guests. The race was held there for a number of years before it moved in 1983 to the Lake Placid Club, where Bill and Judy were hired as sport venue managers.

Though Over Hill and Dale has been defunct since 2001, Bill and Judy's son Greg is reviving it for one more go around. The event starts at the old Lake Placid Club beach on Mirror Lake Drive across the lake from the village beach Saturday, July 28 at 5:30 p.m. Early registration is $25, and day-of is $35.

Bill and Judy said the first race had a modest turnout - only about 35 people attended. It was held in the evening, similar to Bill's own workout schedule. He never liked getting up early for a run. He would just wait till after work.

Judy called it a gentle race, sending runners up and down hills on the Whiteface Inn's golf course.

The price of admission was $7, which covered the race and a barbecue - much lower than the nearly $800 price tag of a spot in the Ironman triathlon now.

A run and a swim just seemed like a natural and refreshing combo to Bill and Judy, but apparently, not a lot of people did races like that back then.

"A man called Bill wondering if this was the very first run-swim race," Judy said.

"This must have been before triathlons caught on and became popular," Bill said. "I just did it because it was great to cool off after a run."

The second year, however, had a much more impressive turnout.

"We thought maybe 40 or 50 people would come," Bill said. "Well, 120 showed up, so Judy is running over to the grocery store grabbing more hamburgers and hot dogs. We never expected anything like that."

The two organized the race until they left Lake Placid in 1984 and moved to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where they owned a health food store. Greg took over directing the race.

"We'd come back every so often and watch it," Judy said.

Now residents of Lake Placid again, Bill and Judy are big on watching and don't do much racing these days.

"I don't really race anymore," Bill said. "I run and try to get back the same day."

About five years ago Bill ran in the Turkey Trot with his grandson Forrest Ledger, who was 9 years old at the time.

"I figured I'd run the race, then hang back a little bit and cross the finish line holding hands with my grandson," he said. "Well, the gun went off, he took off, and I never saw him again. He was gone and beat me by about six minutes. So much for your ego being shattered."

Since the Over Hill and Dale started 39 years ago, many other races have started and been introduced to the area - The Jingle Bell Run-Walk, the Adirondack Health Turkey Trot, the Ironman, Ironman 70.3 and the Lake Placid Marathon and Half-Marathon.

Bill and Judy don't know if Over Hill and Dale created a legacy, but they'd like to think it helped bring new events to Lake Placid.

"It wasn't really that big of an organization," Bill said. "It was more of just a fun thing to do."

"I often think somebody looked at this and thought, 'Boy that is a money maker,' and turned it into one," Judy said. "Somebody might have seen it as a very entrepreneurial thing to do."

The two are excited to see the race return one more time.

"It's a kick," Bill said. "Like Greg didn't have anything else to do."

Greg directs the Ironman, owns and operates Mirror Lake Boat Rental and owns the Lake Placid Marathon and Half-Marathon.

"He just added one more thing," Bill said. "It's fun to see it come back, and we had fun doing it. It was never particularly hard work for us."

Judy said it will be nice to have returning participants, if any, from all those years ago.

"They'll all be old now," she said.

"We'll have a Legends category; how 'bout that?" Bill added.



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