GREENVILLE — Only 174 runners took part in the first Yellow Jacket Challenge, held in 2008.
Last year’s event saw 324 runners — 158 women and 166 men — with the youngest runner being only 7 and the oldest 71.
According to race director and Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) Executive Assistant Penny Dora, expected turnout is even higher for this year’s event.
Part of the reason for the event’s popularity, Dora said, is that it welcomes “newbie” runners and families.
“The fact that 102 of last year’s runners, almost one-third of the total, were age 12 and under is certainly proof that this is a family-friendly event and that is exactly what we want,” Dora said. “We want to give families an opportunity to spend an afternoon together while enjoying a physical fitness activity.”
The run this year is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27, a little later than the usual third Sunday of the month, due to the fact Easter falls on that date this year. Dora also hopes that, considering the unusually cool weather this past winter and the lateness of spring, that temps will have warmed up by then and allow for a more pleasant running experience.
Participants in this year’s event can expect some welcome changes and additions to the race’s usual offerings. For the first time, the 5K race will be managed with electronic timing devices.
“(This is) a feature valued by many runners because it provides an accurate reading of race finish time,” Dora said. “Along with chip timing, a new course will be unveiled. Runners will now finish on the south 30 yard line of Legacy Field, giving them a chance to run through the tunnel and onto the football field.”
New course maps are posted on the website, www.yellowjacketchallenge.com, where online registration also is available.
Another feature of this year’s event is an appearance by Scott Rigsby, a double amputee and accomplished Ironman finisher and Boston Marathon competitor. Rigsby’s presentation is sponsored by the Tri Greenville Triathlon, with financial support from the Greenville Area Community Foundation’s Access to Recreation Endowment Fund.
Rigsby will speak immediately following the run.
“Scott’s message is one of challenge, hope, and inspiration and it definitely has the power to change someone’s life,” Dora said.
There is no charge for the presentation and participation in the challenge is not required to attend.
The event garners many sponsors, including SNAP Fitness Greenville and The Club Fitness Center, both of which are actively involved in producing the challenge. In fact, Club Fitness owner Al Guilfoyle wrote the challenge’s training plan.
“The training plan is pretty much for beginning to intermediate runners,” Guilfoyle said. “It’s for somebody who’s just starting out or maybe has done it before but not that much.”
Guilfoyle’s plan, which is available free of charge to both members and non-members at The Club Fitness Center, covers everything from proper running attire and potential hazards to the pre-race training regimen. Though the plan touches on diet, that’s not really the focus of preparing for a 5K race, Guilfoyle noted.
“As long as you’re eating a good, clean diet that should be good,” Guilfoyle said. “If you’re an elite runner trying to shave 100th of a second off your time, it matters, but not so much for a recreational 5K.”
Guilfoyle also cautioned that simply running is not enough to keep healthy and “race ready.” A varied workout consisting of weights, treadmill and other range of motion exercises also are important.
In addition to providing a healthy, family-friendly activity for area residents, the challenge also serves as a fund raiser with money going to many area causes. Typically, the event raises about $7,500 each year, money awarded as Wellness Grants administered by the Education Foundation of Greenville. In years past, the fund has helped subsidize area running clubs, purchased videos and equipment to promote physical fitness in elementary school students, purchased technology updates for the high school wrestling loft and awarded funds or equipment to numerous other worthy, fitness related causes.
“In past years, we have seen three generations running together,” Dora said. “This is what we envisioned years ago and we are thrilled to see this vision realized. It is very exciting to watch the Yellow Jacket Challenge grow and to see the success of our young running clubs.”