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.
Im a silly kind of girl, she said. Hes 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. Its a little embarrassing, but its kind of fun.
With a record 10,217 people registered for the sixth annual Fort4Fitness, 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 – flooded Parkview Field and downtown Fort Wayne on Saturday morning.
Its wonderful to have record-setting numbers, its 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 its 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 while pushing their young sons, Iestyn and Nashlon in strollers.
We pushed each 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 began 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 boasted 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 to help participants along the course. Craker said the organizations 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. Theres nothing like finishing to Michael Jackson.
As each year brings forth a larger attendance, Craker said Fort4Fitness will continue to 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.