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Recreation

Fifth Season Races placing increased emphasis on the Iowa running community

Race directors preparing for 33rd year of Independence Day staple in downtown Cedar Rapids

Runners take off at the start of the Health Solutions 8K Race during the 32nd annual Fifth Season Races in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Jul. 4, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Runners take off at the start of the Health Solutions 8K Race during the 32nd annual Fifth Season Races in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Jul. 4, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Community spirit permeates the annual Fifth Season Races.

Yes, there will likely be a host of elite national runners descending upon Cedar Rapids on Wednesday to compete in the day’s signature event — the Health Solutions 8K Race — but the trio of race directors from Corridor Running Club have placed a renewed emphasis on highlighting the talents and abilities of the homegrown athletes.

“Our focus on the club is to get the community more involved,” race director Brian Tharp said. “It is a corridor club, it is a corridor race and we really want to make sure that our community benefits from it. All of the community members that want to participate can and we don’t want to make it feel like it is an elitist-only type of race. So we’re really trying to put an emphasis and focus on the family-friendly event. It is the Fourth of July. It is a celebration for everybody.”

Now in its 33rd consecutive year, the Fifth Season Races have varied components.

The Kids Fun Run on Third Avenue features three races for children up to age 12 in an effort to encourage healthy lifestyles at a young age.

A 5K Run/Walk allows runners and walkers of all ages to trek at their own pace on an out-and-back route through the Grande Avenue Historic District before returning downtown to Green Square Park.

The 8K Race is significant not just for the level of competition it invites, but for the city’s dedication to the event. Nowhere in the country has a community staged an 8K for as many consecutive years as Cedar Rapids has done.

With an 8K route certified by USA Track and Field stretching from Greene Square Park to Bever Park and back, the top-seven finishers in each gender class will split prize money totaling $3,148 with a top prize of $599 for both the male and female winners.

Last year, both gender divisions had multiple Iowa runners in the top seven.

“Iowa has got a great foundation for fast runners,” Corridor Running Club President Mark Powers said. “One of the things that I don’t think a lot of people throughout the country realize until they see the performances, we still get great runners from here in the state. We’ve always debated whether we want to draw in more elites from outside or showcase the athletes from our area and we really focus on trying to showcase the athletes from our area.”

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Nowhere is the spirit of community more amplified than between the race directors. Both Tharp and Jim Dwyer own local stores that cater to runners. Tharp and his wife Kris own We Run on Dodge Road NE, while Dwyer started Iowa Running Company in the New Bohemia District last year after his parents retired from their ownership of longtime chain Running Wild.

One might think Tharp and Dwyer would be fierce business competitors, but both praise the complementary relationship of the two stores.

“People would be surprised,” Dwyer said. “We actually work really well together, both on a race preparation level and on a business level. We each have sent customers to each other’s store because our true philosophy is, and Brian would probably agree, our biggest competitor is probably Amazon. If this town can have two thriving run specialty stores, that’s even better. Let’s make it a strong local flavor. I feel like small business is the backbone of the community.”

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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