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The Journal Gazette

  • File  Ryan Kienzle of Canton, Ohio, left in red, was one of the top marathon runners in the U.S. when he won the Runners on Parade 5K race in 2014.

  • File Despite known for its competitive field and fast winning times, any runner can benefit from the atmosphere created at Runners on Parade. 

  • File Hannah Hoffman ran the race growing up and always appreciated the community's support along the course. She won the women's race in 2015.

Sunday, July 08, 2018 1:00 am

Great crowds draw top runners

Ex-champions rave about 5K's atmosphere

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: 24th annual Runners on Parade 5K

When: 8 a.m. Saturday

Where: Headwaters Park, downtown

Cost: $30, price increase Thursday

Registration: RunSignUp.com

Runners are inherently passionate. It's in their nature.

So when something's good, and runners say it's good, it must be good.

For the Fort Wayne running community, the Runners on Parade 5-kilometer race has been a summer staple for the past 24 years. This year's race is scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday. 

Run downtown before the Three Rivers Festival Parade, locals and out-of-towners alike flock to the Summit City for the race known for its fast times and spectator-laden course.

“When you think about racing and big event-type racing, Parade was the first one I attended. It was one that had all the magic,” said Casey Shafer, the 2003 winner. “You get there, there's people on the sides of the street. I thought it was just the race. I didn't realize there was the festival.

“It just created that mystic for me. It was a place you could put on a show. You train for so many events, you train and it's all by yourself or a couple of friends and Parade is the event where you can showcase your skill because people are there to cheer you on. You don't really get that with a lot of races.”

Carroll and IU graduate Samantha Ginther, the 2013 women's winner, grew up watching the race before the parade.

“As I started getting into running, I would watch part of the race and as I got more competitive in middle school and high school, I was able to run it. I was able to win after a few years and most of the time in high school and college, if I got back to run, I was mostly doing workouts so it was really nice experience to be able to win it one year.”

A common theme among the winners was the feeling of unknown at the starting line.

“You never knew you were going to win,” Shafer said. “That's the cool thing. You can train as hard as you possibly could. The competition is so good for each age group, you don't know if you're going to pull it off. You just have to be the best on that day.”

Elite U.S. marathon runner Ryan Kienzle of Canton, Ohio, the 2014 winner, did some research on his competitors before toeing the line on Calhoun Street.

“A lot of times in the summer, you can get a 5K every weekend and it's hard to attract competitive runners,” he said. “... For me, not being from that area, I had to do my research on some of the guys that were going to be there.”

Kienzle, a seven-time All-American at Malone University, ran in the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon trial. Other notable winners include elite marathon runner Craig Leon (2007 and 2009), a Van Wert, Ohio, native who finished eighth in the 2015 New York City Marathon; Concordia and Indiana Tech graduate Alissa McKaig Doehla (2003 and 2005), a former NAIA champion in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs; Huntington natives Lauren and Nick Johnson (both 2010). Lauren Johnson was a member of the U.S. world championship track team in 2015 in the 1,500-meter run; Nick Johnson is her husband and coach.

“I love the race,” Kienzle said of Runners on Parade, “the atmosphere, middle of July is going to be fairly warm, but I thought the concept, too, of having the parade afterward and getting all the people to line the course helps make that a fast race and really exciting race. You get people on the course for a good section of it going out and coming back in. Most races, you head out for the first 100 meters and you lose people after that. Having that for the parade route was kind of cool.”

The inclusion of the race prior to the parade has always added an increased sense of community as a way of bridging the gap between the runners and the community, and while the vast majority won't be competing for the top spot, there's still an opportunity for a personal best on the typically fast course. 

“I think it's a great community 5K with the parade going on afterward so you get a lot of that community support which I think is fun,” 2015 winner Hannah Hoffman said.

“You don't see that any other races. For those newer runners or those who won't be at the front, that exciting atmosphere that you don't see at typical 5K races. To run a PR or finish a 5K for the first time, it's perfect in that atmosphere. I think everyone should experience it at least once.”

areichel@jg.net