Do you want to see running in its purest form? You won't see it at The Olympics. Nor is it at area high school meets.
To see the essence of our sport, come out to an elementary cross-country race. It is there you will witness the emotions of innocent children discovering the joy of our sport. And, if you look real close, you will see children discovering a lot about themselves.
There are three major championship events over the next three weeks starting with the longest continually run event this Friday: The Elementary 1-Mile Championships. This event is celebrating its 13th year at Morsches Park in Columbia City.
The next two races are Kinderlauf, held Oct. 4 at The Swiss Heritage Village in Berne and The Lightning Mile, to be held Oct. 11 at Carroll Middle School near Huntertown.
The Columbia City race was founded by Gary Bird who as coach of Team Bird helped over 100 youth get their first taste of cross-country. Health issues have reduced Bird's capacity to direct the meet so his wife, JoAnn, has stepped in along with a host of other volunteers.
There is much history to the race, including a long list of all-time course records. Other highlights that have not changed: huge trophies to winners, free pizza and sports drinks to finishers. One change? Instead of designer T-shirts that have a diagram of the famous course on the back, registered runners will receive knit running hats and backpacks large enough to carry running shoes.
At it's peak, The Elementary 1-Mile Championships drew nearly 600 children in six races (separate races for boys and girls in each of the three grades) from as far as Lafayette, Marion and South Bend. There is also a team competition for each race with schools needing at least five finishers to comprise a team score.
The course opens and registration begins at 3 p.m. with the first race (3rd grade girls) at 5:30 p.m. Race day entry is allowed with the fee being $10. For more information, visit www.runindiana.com.
Kinderlauf follows a different format: only two races, one each for boys and girls. But because of chip timing, the top 10 finishers in each grade will be recognized.
The race is in its inaugural year under the name Kinderlauf, but race director Clint Anderson (South Adams cross-country coach) has been putting on elementary races for years. Entry is $5 before Sept. 27 and $10 afterward through race day. Checks should be made out to Berne Track Club and mailed to 663 Sprunger St., Berne, IN 46711. For more information, email Anderson at email@example.com.
The Lightning Mile consists of three races: one for each grade. Because of chip timing, boys and girls will run together with the top 10 finishing boys and girls will get trophies and places 11-25 will be awarded ribbons.
Entry is limited to pre-race registration, which ends on Oct. 4. Entry is $5; race shirts will be sold at the meet for $5. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries should be mailed to Cedar Canyons Elementary, 15011 Coldwater Road, Fort Wayne, IN 46845.