116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The pandemic took its toll on many major sporting events in 2020 and into 2021.
High school and college athletes lost entire seasons, including championship seasons.
But in the midst of those heartbreaking and, to many, devastating cancellations, there were many smaller events that also were lost — and got lost in the shuffle of a global mess.
One of those is returning Sunday, one of my favorite events each summer. The Fifth Season Races — aka the Fifth Season 8K — returns after sitting out 2020.
Many road races were held virtually last summer, with people running on their own and turning in their times over a variety of distances. It was a good way to keep people active and, according to some evidence, it spurred many to get out and get moving for the first time.
That’s great, but actually having a road race — where runners and walkers toe the line, find that extra gear at the end and sprint to the finish line — is something special.
So the Fifth Season 8K will celebrate its 36th year — and 35th running — on its traditional July 4 date.
That’s special. That’s exciting.
“... even though it’s modified a bit, it’s good to be back,” said Jim Dwyer, co-president of Corridor Running and co-director of the Fifth Season Races.
“It’s a little bit different feel,” said Brian Tharp, the other co-president and co-director. ”I wish we could go full-bore. But it’s nice to at least have something.“
That “something” will feel a little different, for sure. For one, the field is capped at 1,000 runners and walkers. There will be no elite division, no invited talent to race for prize money. There will be no prize money.
There also will be no kids race, no post-race party or awards ceremony after at Greene Square, where the races will start and finish. Heck, there won’t even be age-group awards.
“We don’t feel comfortable with 1,000 people running and hanging out,” Tharp said.
But there will be an 8K — the granddaddy of 8Ks in the Midwest, by the way — and a 5K. And there will be trophies for the top three men and top three women — trophies that very likely will go to local talent instead of runners chasing a check.
“I think they will cherish those,” Tharp said.
The course also will return to its traditional out-and-back route, running up Third Avenue, Grande Avenue and through Bever Park before returning downtown.
Other changes include the packet pickup — it will be a drive-through on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the City CSC building (500 15th Ave SW) — and the start of the races will have wider staggers. The gun goes off in the 8K at 7:30 a.m., the 5K and 8:30.
Some of these changes could become the “new normal,” Dwyer said, like the staggered start.
“It remains to be seen,” he said.
“We’ll have to see how it plays out,” Tharp said.
Tharp said the field already was at around 700 as of Monday and “it should be really close” to the 1,000 cap. He said it’s a fairly even split, with maybe 60 percent doing the 8K.
He thinks there will be a lot of first-time participants in the 5K — runners, joggers or walkers.
You see, both men also own their own running stores — Dwyer operates Iowa Running Company and Tharp We Run LLC. Both have seen an uptick in runners and walkers — one of the silver linings that came out of the pandemic.
“We’ve seen a lot of new faces. It’s good to see people getting out,” Tharp said.
“I hope it sticks,” Dwyer said.
Because 2022 could bring things back to the “real normal.” Kids races, elite runners chasing prize money, no cap on participants and a big party after a big race.
“I’m really looking forward to 2022,” Dwyer said with a laugh.
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