Sports

Minneapolis team looks for success at 2019 Fifth Season Health Solutions 8K

International runners compete against local talent in Cedar Rapids race

Runners in the Health Solutions 8K near the finish line in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday, July 4, 2016. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Runners in the Health Solutions 8K near the finish line in downtown Cedar Rapids on Monday, July 4, 2016. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Daniel Kemoi has raced in Guatemala, Tanzania, Morocco and Washington, D.C. in the last 15 months, which included a third-place finish in Morocco and fourth-place finish in Tanzania.

Thursday, he’ll be looking to take that dominance to Cedar Rapids in the Fifth Season Health Solutions 8K, which will mesh runners from outside of Iowa with the top talent in Eastern Iowa.

He’s part of Duma Runners, a Minneapolis-based running team bringing six Kenyan runners to the annual Fourth of July race. William Kosgei, the president of Duma Runners, said the team keeps coming back to the event because of how fun it is and the race’s focus on helping the community. Kosgei said Duma Runners have been at all but two races since 2009 despite smaller prize money than past years.

“It’s a really fun race. I like what they do for the community,” Kosgei said. “The people are so nice.”

Kosgei said his goal for Duma Runners is to take first, second, third and fifth places.

“I don’t know why I’m so greedy this year,” Kosgei said with a laugh.

The heavy presence of Duma Runners and other elite runners at Thursday’s race is part of race directors Jim Dwyer, Mark Powers and Brian Tharp continued attempt to bring in top talent. They often don’t have to look as far as Minneapolis, though.

“We get runners in the community here that are great runners,” Powers said. “People think you have to come from somewhere else to do that, but regionally Iowa has a great resource and great pool of fast runners.”

The strong local talent is a point of pride for the race directors. Brogan Austin, who lives in Boone, will be racing Thursday and was the 2018 USA marathon national champion. Austin also is a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier.

“We have a heritage of good, elite athletes,” Powers said.

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The race directors said it’s a balance of catering to elite runners while also providing the best possible experience for Cedar Rapidians who participate every year. It’s the 34th consecutive year of the Fifth Season races.

“It’s become a Cedar Rapids tradition,” Dwyer said. “We love the local draw, obviously. This race is the backbone of the community. ... We want for everyone in the community to enjoy it. It’s for them, their (spouses and) their kids.”

In the 34 years of the race, there have been only two corporate sponsors: Alliant Energy until 2013 and Health Solutions since. The race directors said they try to buy as much as possible for the race locally, including the medals and T-shirts.

The courses for the 8K and 5K will have a slightly different route because of construction on Third Avenue outside the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Instead it will start and finish on the other side of Greene Square, outside the Cedar Rapids Public Library on Fourth Avenue. The 8K route will extend into Bever Park and will be a USA Track and Field-sanctioned event. Streets on the route include Fourth Avenue, 19th Street and Grand Avenue.

The 8K will begin at 8 a.m., and the 5K at 8:15 a.m. The “Kids’ Fun Run” will be at 9:45 a.m., and the youth mile race will be at 10 a.m., which helps make it a more family-friendly event.

“It’s a family tradition for a lot of people to come run with their kids,” Dwyer said.

The winners of the men’s and women’s races will receive $599 each. The Fifth Season races will give a total of $3,148 in prizes.

l Comments: john.steppe@thegazette.com

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