GREENVILLE — Rain, snow and sunshine. Mother Nature has been busy this week in Michigan.
With the craziness of the the recent weather, thoughts of running or walking in the seventh annual Yellow Jacket Challenge (YJC) may have taken a back seat. With less than two weeks before this year’s event there is still time to get registered for either the 5K run, one mile walk or young Yellow Jacket fun runs.
The YJC raises funds for the Education Foundation of Greenville. Proceeds are used exclusively for wellness, exercise and nutrition programs throughout Greenville Public Schools.
The YJC is certified by the United States Association of Track and Field and endorsed by the Michigan Governor’s Council of Physical Fitness. The endorsement allows runners the chance to be selected for the Labor Day Mackinaw Bridge Run.
This year’s event takes place on April 27 at 2 p.m. with registration beginning at 12:30 p.m.
“I’m pleased with our registrations so far, especially given the weather trend we have seen this spring,” race director Penny Dora said. “We have over 100 online registrations and are over 100 for mail in registrations, as well.
“We usually see an additional 100 or so on the day of the event, but there is not a shirt guarantee for those who register on the day of the event,” she added.
This year’s event features a couple of changes to the race. Changes for the better, that is.
First, the YJC will be a chip timed event for the first time. Dora said this allows for an accurate reading of finish times and eliminates the margin of error for race results. The feature is an added cost, but well worth it.
“It is a feature we have wanted to add for several years, but we have been concerned about the cost,” Dora said. “We have been able to manage the finish line quite well with volunteer assistance, but as participation increases, it becomes more difficult to be efficient at the finish line.”
Dora is hoping the new feature will draw more runners, which in turn will offset the added expense.
The second change is a new race course. Starting behind the Greenville Middle School, the 5K course works its way along the Fred Meijer Flat River Trail, through residential neighborhoods, by Montcalm Community College’s new campus and through the Greenville High School athletic complex. The course ends through the tunnel of beautiful Legacy Field at the 30-yard line.
“We have a beautiful campus and we want to show it off whenever possible. The course route passes Yellow Jacket Stadium so runners have a chance to see the track as they approach the end of the race,” Dora said. “Runners often have opportunities to be on a track surface. It isn’t very often that anyone other than the football team and their staff have a chance to be on the field.”
Dora, an avid runner herself, has finished her practice runs through the tunnel at Legacy Field onto the playing surface. She said it is a pretty unique experience.
“Running through the tunnel and onto the football field will be a unique and exciting experience for our runners,” Dora said. “My practice runs through the tunnel were pretty exciting. It echoes as you pass through and the panoramic view of Legacy Field as runners cross the finish line is pretty awesome. They will love it.”
More than 300 runners participated a year ago. Dora is hoping to reach the 400 mark for 5K runners.
“Our best attendance was at 529 with runners, walkers and fun runners all total. We had 354 runners that year,” she said.
Another new feature this year will be guest speaker Scott Rigsby. Rigsby, a double amputee and accomplished Ironman finisher and Boston Marathon runner will speak immediately after the YJC.
“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 Scott Rigsby’s presentation and participation in the YJC is not required.”
Registration links, past results and course records can be found at www.yellowjacketchallenge.com.
Last year, a new Female Master’s course record was set by Amanda Ringleka with a time of 21:48.0. That broke the previous record of 21:52.7 set by Caroline Cook in 2009.
The overall male record is 15:52.9 by Bill Peterson and the female overall record is held by Leah Elenbaas with a time of 18:34.1, both in 2010.
Early registration deadlines on April 18. That guarantees participants a free YJC T-shirt and a $5 discount for runners ($20 for runners and $10 for walkers). After April 18 and for race day registrations the cost is $25 for runners and $10 for walkers. Children ages fifth grade and younger may walk for free, but do not receive a T-shirt. Fun run participants do not require registration and are free.