Gary Rairdon, left in red, leads off the fifth annual Westbrook Strong 5K Saturday morning. Chance Viles/American Journal

WESTBROOK — Riverbank Park was abuzz Saturday morning with nearly 500 runners for the annual Westbrook Strong 5K, marking the fifth successful race.

The race raises money for local nursing students, in honor of Matthew Rairdon, a Westbrook native and nurse who was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend in 2013. Laurie and Gary Rairdon, Matthew’s parents, say each year they have been amazed with the turnout and support, and this year was no exception.

The competitive runners stick to the front, quickly moving out of the park Saturday morning. Chance Viles/American Journal

“It’s truly become a community event, and this event would not be what it is without that,” said Gary Rairdon, who is also president of the Westbrook City Council. “People are here who didn’t even know Matthew to support the cause, and it’s really bringing all these people together early on a Saturday morning, it’s amazing.”

With 493 registered runners, the race was only seven participants shy of the 500 runner goal.

“It’s my first year running the event, and I am excited. It’s for a good cause,” runner Thomas Harvey said.

The race was won by Troy Hendricks, a Portland native and sophomore at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in Standish.

“It’s great to come out and support the cause,” Hendricks said.

Saint Joseph’s College sophomore Troy Hendricks solidly finishes in first, with no runners directly in tow. Chance Viles/American Journal

Hendricks, supported by a number of other Saint Joseph’s students, finished with a time of 17:06, which is about a 5:30 mile pace.

While Westbrook Strong brought in a number of competitive runners, the event is notably family friendly, opening up with a children’s “Matt’s Mile” race.

“Seeing that was so heartwarming, Matt loved children,” Gary Rairdon said.

The event then moved to the full 5K, with families, people pushing baby strollers, and walkers all out to support the cause.

“It’s my first time, I am here with my son and future daughter-in-law. It’s a great cause,” runner John Harvey said.

Harvey came with Molly Rich, who has run the event before.

Saint Joseph’s College runners Brandon Whitlock Jr., left, Troy Hendricks and Michael Brooks finished within a minute of one another. Chance Viles/ American Journal

“It’s a beautiful run that finishes and begins right in the park, and of course it brings everyone together for something positive,” Rich said.

Runners fill the walkways of Riverbank Park. Chance Viles/American Journal

Volunteers and spectators cheer runners on. Chance Viles/American Journal

Volunteers hand out water to runners as they finish the race. Chance Viles/ American Journal


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