FORT WAYNE – For the past 20 years, runners have lined up at 8 a.m. to kick off their Three Rivers Festival even before the parade.
Runners on Parade is a 5-kilometer road race that has now become a Three Rivers Festival staple.
It’s the only road race exclusively in the downtown area and has featured many of the area’s top runners.
This year’s race, scheduled for Saturday, has a few firsts. An elite division has been established to accommodate the area’s top runners and ultimately help the rest of the field.
We got some extra fundraising this year so, because of that, people were excited about this race, said Casey Shafer, the race’s elite coordinator.
They know it’s a super-fast race. They wanted to put up some money, so we could get some hotel rooms for elites this year, which I think that’s a first for any race in Fort Wayne.
So far, Shafer has had 20 inquiries from elite runners, but as of June 30 only 10 have signed up. Four of the men have run sub-14:30 and one is a sub-4 miler.
To be considered elite, male runners have to be running at sub-15-minute 5K and women, sub-17:30.
The elite runners only add to the competition that seems to be there every year.
The race is always competitive, co-race director Erin Brady said. The elites will draw the pack out faster and it’s at a bargain price for them. High school and collegiate runners who are home for the summer always run it, too.
Shafer is convinced the elites will make the entire field faster.
We bring the elites in because if you have the elites there and you have the normal crew who likes to run it because it’s fast, the elites pull everyone out so not only does the fast person run fast, but the slow person runs fast. That’s what makes this huge.
Also for the first time, the starting line will be set up in three corrals. The first wave will be the elites and runners who are on pace to run 17:30.
The next will be those who want to run sub-21 minutes, and the third is everyone else.
Last year, 52 runners ran faster than 17:30, and 162 runners finished under 21. There were 794 finishers.
We’ve had more businesses and more sponsors coming on board this year, Brady said.
Fort Wayne Orthopedics is the main sponsor. We have Three Rivers Running Company, Human Motor Works, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. With their help, it’ll make the race more long term.
Shafer has also been working with the Fort Wayne Track Club to help make the race bigger.
We’ve been wanting to make this race bigger, he said. This is the first year that the Fort Wayne Track Club has a board. Before, it was just one person, so now it’s the whole committee that stepped in and said, This is our race.’ Everyone loves it.
In addition to the local sponsors, Saucony will be letting runners race in a pair of their racing flats. Runners can reserve a pair of racing shoes for Saturday’s race on Friday at Three Rivers Running Company.
There will be three kinds of shoes available: lightweight trainer, road flat and racing flat. There are 50 pairs for men and women and are on a first-come, first-served basis.
Registration and more information can be found online at www.runrace.net or in person at Three Rivers Running Company.