The early bird wins the race: morning running club hits the pavement

Kenia Cruz

Do you ever wake up at 6:11 a.m. and think about going for a run around the beautiful Berkshires? If your answer is no, then you and I are in the same boat. But for Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology Hank Art, early morning runs are a part of his daily routine. 

In September 1980, Art, former Professor of Psychology Al Goethals and former Professor of Biology Steve Zottoli decided to run together every weekday at 6 a.m. They called themselves the “Boys of Dawn.”

“We all had been running around noontime but finding it frustrating [due to] meetings,” Art said. “There was always something that interfered, so we said, ‘Let’s run in the morning before our 8 a.m. classes.’” 

The Boys of Dawn initially decided to meet at 6 a.m. on Water Street. However, Art was always late, so they decided to head out the door at 6 a.m. to meet at 6:10 a.m. instead. Funnily enough, even with the ten-minute extension, Art always managed to arrive a minute late. 

“I would always be late—which, I am often late to things,” he said. “So they said 6:11 a.m. That was the ultimatum.” In the end, 6:11 a.m. stuck. 

In the years since, the group has grown from three professors to over forty members from all walks of life. The regulars range from retired physicians to the Williamstown clerk and recent alums of the College. 

Today, the members of the group start their run from the Williamstown Library. They take a variety of routes depending on the day, sometimes running across the College’s campus and on other days running to Green River Road and Gale Road. Over the years, the members have supported each other through marathons, fun runs and 5k races. 

They also regularly bet on when the first sliver of sun will appear over the horizon during their runs. All of the betting money gets funneled into their banquet, an annual celebration for the group. 

“It’s an event where [we] all get together and anybody who’s run during the year is welcome to come … we can have it at The Log … and have a meal together,” Art said. 

Even when it snows or rains, the dedicated group manages to find a way to exercise. “When it’s raining hard—hard enough to be uncomfortable—or [there is] sleet, heavy snow or [we could] be endangered by a snowplow, we run [at] the Fieldhouse.” That way, Art said, the “Boys of Dawn” still get their runs in. 

Upon being asked what his most memorable moments were, having run almost every day at 6:11 a.m. for 40 years, Art laughed and said there were too many. They included running up to Granite Mountain at sunrise and taking a group photo, as well as a member’s 40th birthday celebration where they all went to Tunnel City Coffee following a nice run. 

At the end of our time together, I couldn’t help but inquire about if Art was ever going to stop running. He laughed and said, “As long as the knees hold up and my heart keeps pumping, I will be out there running.”