Steve McMahon may not have been ready to divulge to nearly 4,000 people that he was celebrating his 50th birthday with a 4-mile run, but his wife, Angela, came prepared.
As McMahon made his way to the start corral for the Fort4Fitness 4 mile walk/run race, she held a homemade sign above his head that said, "Happy Birthday, Steve" with a large "50" encircled by red and orange streamers and balloons on the very top. She whipped up the sign the night before.
"I'm a silly kind of girl," she said. "He's an excellent husband and I want to be here and show my support."
McMahon, participating for the second year, said that a dozen people had greeted him with "happy birthday" even before the first race began.
"She has done things like this before, he said. "It's a little embarrassing, but it's kind of fun."
With a record 10,217 people registered for this weekend's Fort4Fitness events, a network of support seemed to be the central motivation for many runners in the 4 mile, 10K and Half Marathon road races. Race Director Dave Craker and the Fort4Fitness staff relied on more than 1,200 volunteers to pass out directions, water and the occasional high-five along the course.
An estimated 28,000 people -- spectators and participants -- inundated Parkview Field and downtown Fort Wayne Saturday morning.
"It's wonderful to have record-setting numbers, it's amazing how this week turned out and how it really captures wellness and healthy living," he said. "For twenty-five percent of our participants, this is their first road race – they have never done this before. Our mission is to get people off the couches and get them out moving, and it's succeeding."
Kelli Roe said her family made the decision to start living healthier after her husband, Jason, lost his mother to health issues. Starting a basic running routine two months ago, the couple ran their first 10K race Saturday in an hour and seven minutes pushing their young sons, Iestyn and Nashlon in strollers.
"We pushed each to other to do it – I pushed him more than he pushed me," she said with a laugh. "It was more about being healthy and getting out on a Saturday."
The Fort4Fitness course, which was certified by the USA Track and Field organization and Road Runners Technical Council, had participants begin heading east on Baker Street and ended with runners crossing the finish line in Parkview Field. The 4-mile walk/run had the largest attendance; the 10K bolstered more than 1,800 participants and more than 1,000 children and seniors participated in a separate event Friday evening. The half marathon had 2,500 participants take on 13.1 miles, reaching as far as Tillman Road before heading back into downtown.
Fort4Fitness had more than moral support. As an added security measure this year, Craker said the staff contacted Amateur Radio Emergency Services, or ARES, to help participants along the course. Craker said the organization's hand-held radio operators used the event to practice for potential disasters.
"The course was awesome, it was a beautiful day to run, and it was totally awesome to hear people cheering for you," Joe Walburn, who ran the half marathon, said. He and his partner, Katrina Newman, met their goal of completing the run in two hours and ten minutes.
"There were a lot of people that were giving away food, cheering, and the music – the music at mile 11 or 12 was awesome. There's nothing like finishing to Michael Jackson."
As each year brings forth a larger attendance, Craker said Fort4Fitness will continue make the most of its widespread commitment to the community.
"We just like to keep getting bigger and better," he said. "Every year, we take the post-race survey feedback and turn that into positive changes. We always try to get better."
Fort4Fitness issued this statement today after the event:
An estimated 28,000 spectators and participants filled Parkview Field and downtown Fort Wayne Saturday morning for the 6th Annual Fort4Fitness Fall Festival. 9,126 participants registered for the Saturday races (Half Marathon, 10K and 4 Mile events). If you include Friday's Kids and Seniors Marathons, 10,217 participants were registered for the five events during the two-day weekend event.
Elias Rojas, 27, of Cromwell, IN, won the Half Marathon with a time of 1:11:21. Thomas Crum, 26, of Fort Wayne, finished second in 1:13:39, followed by Eric Ade, 35, of Fort Wayne in 1:13:52 in third place. Crystina Ridenour, 26, of Fort Wayne, won her fourth straight Fort4Fitness Half Marathon title in a record time of 1:20:37. She was followed by Lori Cook, 40, of Spencerville, in second place in 1:27:47, with third place going to Elizabeth Schloss, 25, of Fort Wayne, in 1:28:19.
The 10K men's overall winner was Benjamin Beard, 29, of Indianapolis. His time of 38:31 earned him the RRCA Indiana 10K State Championship title. Chip LaRowe, 50, of Auburn, fi nished second with a time of 39:22, followed by Paul Smith, 44, of Fort Wayne in third place in 39:25.
Anna Farmer won the women's 10K race in 39:16, winning the women's RRCA Indiana 10K State
Championship. Second place went to Ashley Sprunger, 27, of Fort Wayne in 41:20, and Jenny Robinson, 33, of Fort Wayne, fi nished third in 41:45.
The 4 Mile race was won by Austen Davenport, 27, of Columbia City in 21:41. Joshua Horning, 35, of Leo placed second in 23:12, followed by Jacob Doctor, 27, of Fort Wayne in third with a time of 23:56. Jenny Robinson, 33, of Fort Wayne, won the women's 4 Mile event in 27:06, followed by Shanee Francher-Donald, 21, of Fort Wayne, in second place in 28:11. Lauren Slyby, 26, of Fort Wayne finished third in 28:17.
Wheelchair races were won by Neal Niezer (Half Marathon, 34, Fort Wayne - 1:40:56), Randall Kongar (10K, 18, Berne - 59:11), and Layla Rigdon (4 Mile, 12, Fort Wayne - 53:02).
Fort4Fitness Chairman Tim Kenesey expressed thanks to the Fort4Fitness corporate sponsors, volunteers, board, staff, and participants, saying "We appreciate and thank all who helped make the 6th Annual Fall Festival another record success. The Fall Festival has become not only one of the signature events in Northeast Indiana, but also – with our training groups, charity partners and Spring Cycle – a year-around platform for supporting healthy living and fitness.
"Fort4Fitness wants to thank especially our founding and still-lead Fall Festival sponsor – Parkview Health, our Fall Festival Co-chairs – Adam Smith and Abby Naas, our Race Director – Dave Craker, and everyone who helps make Fort4Fitness the impactful event that is."