It’s been over a decade since I started my love affair with the River City Rat Race. This race was one of “THE” races to run because it seemed like everyone came out for this event, and this still holds true today.With David Letterman retiring this year it’s only fitting another Indiana native take over and give you a top 10 list of why to fall in love with the River City Rat Race.
10. Scenic course that uses hints of the legendary Lincoln 10k and a finish at the Old Fort. I mean how cool is it to finish in a historic area for both the 5k and the 10k. The start line is also directly in front of the Fort Wayne Museum of Arts, and on the course the race utilizes the gorgeous Forest Park Blvd through mile 2 to see the fall scenery changing, pass by the Old Fort or finish for the 5k, head on the Greenway and into downtown for mile 4 and 5, and finish strong through a winding headwaters park where you can breakaway from yourself or your competition using the curves as you head across the new Martin Luther King memorial bridge and back into the Old Fort.
9.It’s the perfect time of year for a run/race. I don’t know if it’s the magic in the air, but it’s one of the first races that it’s just cool enough to have a great race. You get to feel the brisk air and see a great Indiana fall as you tour the course. Even at the finish line, the trees and weather are enjoyable as you cheer other finishers and wait for awards and eat the amazing food provided at the finish area. A little history lesson for you on this race, it actually used to be later in the spring/early summer. The move to a Sunday in the fall dramatically improved the weather.
8.Speaking of Sunday, it’s a afternoon 2:00 pm Sunday race! This makes for great conditions, too. You don’t have to wake up early and rush around at home just to make it to the start on time. You can plan to eat breakfast and have better energy for the race start.
7. It’s a family event. There are so many people who run this event who bring their family out to either participate or to spectate. It makes the excitement so much greater when others are out cheering you and others on during a race. The first time I ran it my parents were out there cheering me on and it made me want to do better. This also makes for a great finish line party!
6. One of the best starts to a race in Fort Wayne. The race has been introduced by people from Runner’s World, mayors, judges, prominent business leaders in the community, but the runners don’t actually start until the sound of the cannon! A huge boom and then you are off. In more recent years the fire department has put their giant ladder out with a huge American Flag hanging from it about 200 meters into the course. A side note, after the race there is usually video of the start on the Rat Race website! They even had a flyover one year (although this really wasn’t part of the race it just happened).
5. I ran my PR (Personal Record) on this course. For those of you who are competitive you can surely appreciate and fall in love with a race that you ran your fastest ever. It was 31:29.
4. Smooth flow on the course and very flat. The only hill on the course is by the Bike Depot downtown as you head up on the Greenway to the old wooden bridge. There is a very, very small incline heading into Lawton Park midway between mile 5 and 6 that is less than 100 meters, but everything else is flat as a pancake. To explain flow and the course you have to really experience it to know what I’m talking about. I love the distractions of having a ton of spectators and runners at the start and the giant, long, slightly winding straight away for the first mile. I say slightly winding because it’s not straight as an arrow like the first 4 miles of Fort4Fitness. You get to wind back to the Old Fort utilizing scenery for distraction and a a nice parkway road that allows you to see other competitors coming out as you are winding back. The friendships of the race really come out here because of all the cheers people give each other in this section. As you hit mile 3 there are all the spectators at the Old Fort and you wind around the Greenway along the river and into downtown at mile 4. The buildings really help to block any wind which makes for a easier push later in the race. I’ve always liked the winding turns at Headwaters park around mile 5 as you come out of downtown because you can use this as a personal break away and if you are racing it’s great to use this area to lose your competition. If you aren’t racing it’s a good break up of the course because it’s almost a giant circle from one section around and over the bride. Wind around Lawton park and you can see the Old Fort all the way into the finish line.
3. Rats in Training running group for beginners. I remember saying something to former race director Steve Hilker many, many years ago about how you could probably get more runners if you offered training for the race. Being the great running ambassador Steve is he made the Rats in Training on Mondays from the YMCA downtown. This has since been carried over by current race director Pam Wolfe. It’s been amazing over the years to see new runners fall in love with the sport and this race from that group.
2. The race benefits the YMCA. You can never go wrong when a race has it’s proceeds go to something that helps our local community.
1. Did I mention there is cheese and tech t’s? In true themed fashion there is cheese for the finishers and the winner gets a big block of the good stuff! All jokes aside the shirts they give are amazing and it’s very unlikely that you get another one of this quality from a race in the area. They are a treasured prize by the running community.
Hope you all enjoyed this and will come out for the race this year on Sunday October 25th at 2:00pm. You can register for the race at runrace.net. Remember there is no race day registration and to sign up early because there are only 1225 shirts and the race does reach that cap.
written by Casey Shafer