Sports

Fifth Season 8K still a Cedar Rapids gem

Ogden column: July isn't a huge sports month, but there's plenty on tap

Keith Brantly, winning the 1987 Fifth Season 8K in a then-record time of 22:49, returned in 1988 and ran even faster (22:38) in one of the most memorable races in the event’s rich history. (The Gazette)
Keith Brantly, winning the 1987 Fifth Season 8K in a then-record time of 22:49, returned in 1988 and ran even faster (22:38) in one of the most memorable races in the event’s rich history. (The Gazette)

Good morning, July.

It’s good to see you, but I have to admit it seems a little early. It feels like just yesterday, April was spitting sleet and snow at us and May was bringing floodwaters to a river near us all.

But the recent influx of heat and humidity sure feels like July.

This is an interesting month in the world of sports.

For some, it’s the dog days of summer — the NBA season is over, Major League Baseball is at the halfway point and football (NFL, college and high school) still is more than a month away. This month doesn’t have any “madness” attached to it from a sports standpoint. There’s no super Sunday or a day full of bowl games.

To others, however, July has plenty to offer, starting with Thursday’s Fifth Season Races, featuring the Health Solutions 8K. The Quad City Times Bix 7 is later this month in Davenport (July 28). Throw in Ames’ Midnight Madness — hey, there’s that word — on July 13 and this month is an Iowa runner’s paradise.

But road racing isn’t going to spark large crowds or big TV ratings.

Wimbledon starts Monday, but that, too, has a niche audience. The Women’s World Cup soccer tournament is drawing big crowds and, with the United States in the semifinals Tuesday, has peaked interest even among those who aren’t die-hard soccer fans.

On the local level, high school softball and baseball teams begin their marches to their state tournaments.

Softball regionals kick off in Classes 2A and 1A on July 8 and Class 1A baseball districts are July 11. The state softball tournament begins its five-day run in Fort Dodge on July 22 and the eight-day state baseball tournament starts on July 26 in Des Moines.

And there is a little football in the mix, too. The annual Iowa Shrine Bowl Classic, featuring top graduates from across the state, is set for July 20 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

But let’s get this steamy month kicked off with the first event of the new (fiscal) year.

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The Fifth Season 8K has always been among my favorite local events — as a spectator and a participant. There aren’t many events in any town that have survived and thrived for 34 years.

The 8K may not attract the elite talent it did many years ago or offer the level of prize money it once did, but it’s still one of the best road races in Iowa and the Midwest.

“It’s a race that’s been run by collegiate All-Americans, NCAA champions, Olympians and the winner of the Boston Marathon,” Cal Murdock wrote in his “A Rich Race History.” “This race is the longest consecutively held 8K event in the USA and has awarded more prize money than any other 8K race in the country.”

Keith Brantly, one of America’s top distance runners in the 1980s and ’90s, still holds the “event” record at 22 minutes, 38 seconds. It’s not a course record because the course has changed many times over the years, and will have a slight variation on Thursday because of construction on Third Avenue.

That 1998 race where Brantly set the record remains one of the best in Fifth Season history. He beat Sam Obwocha by three seconds, Joseph Kipsang by nine and Richard Kaitany by 19. All four were under 23 minutes, which translate to a 4:37 mile pace. That same year, legendary runner Bill Rodgers set a world’s masters record in 24:03.

This year’s race likely will be a little slower, but no less competitive. Some of the best races are those in the middle of the pack, those personal battles for a PR.

It’s not Iowa football, the NFL or even high school football, but if you’re looking for a sports fix in July, it’s a great place to start.

Next month you’ll have plenty of football to read about and watch.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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