Last Friday night I checked off another one of my “Memphis institution” races when I ran in the Cooper Young Festival 4 Miler. This is an insanely popular event that coincides with the Cooper Young Festival in early September. The last couple of years, or, the only years that I have been running, I have wanted to run in this race, but I have always had a conflict. Usually the conflict was a wedding of a close friend, so I’m not complaining, but it was nice to finally get to experience the event.
There were 2,600 registered runners for this event, which meant that it was over four times larger than the race that I just ran in Tupelo, over a much shorter distance. There actually were starting corrals for the race, which is definitely a first for me in a single digit mileage race! Of course, the corrals were more of strong suggestions that law, and there was not a staggered start time, just a little better grouping of similar paces. I thought that this was a fantastic idea, and even though I was still dodging walkers before running half a mile, I did not have quite as many as usual to sprint around.
The race is a celebration of one of Memphis’ best known communities, the Cooper Young area of Midtown. Several of Memphis’ best restaurants and bars are in this neighborhood, as well as a vibrant art scene and some of the oldest houses in the city. The community as a whole has their own way of doing things, and this race was a great reflection of the neighborhood. Several residents along the race route had their houses decorated for the entire weekend, with luau and zombie themes to name a couple. At mile 2.5, a man was handing out jello shots to the runners, and more than once on the route, residents were misting the runners with their water hoses to help beat the heat, even though the weather had subsided somewhat from earlier in the week.
I had a very sold race, cutting four minutes off my only other four mile race, the Zoom through the Zoo back in May. There were twice as many people at this race, but the crowd control was much better, and the temperature was a little friendlier as well. Also, it was much easier to help myself to the beer trucks, which was greatly appreciated. I finished the race in 38:07, which was just off my goal of 38:00 flat, but that goal did not take into account for jello shots…
Swag: B: There was not much here since they went with a virtual goodie bag which consisted of mostly ads with very few coupons or discounts. I did, however, get a free, one year subscription to Men’s Health via the virtual bag, so that was cool. Also, the shirts were long-sleeved moisture wicking shirts. They are just like the ones from the Move it Memphis 10K and St. Jude FedEx Classic 5K. They are a cotton blended shirt and whereas they do not work great for long runs for me personally, they are comfortable to wear and look good. Food was cold cuts and fruit, with plenty of beer.
Course: A: I loved going up and down the streets of the neighborhood and the community enthusiasm. The start of the race was on the widest road, and as we progressed into the narrower streets, the crowd was beginning to separate itself.
Overall: B+: Fun race with a party atmosphere that benefits from being held on a Friday night at 7:00 pm. There was no parking however, so it was a free-for-all on the city streets for spots, so those people who were late arriving had quite a trek to and from the event. I would certainly run in this event again.
The following day, Susan and I, along with one of her friends went to the actual Cooper Young Festival. I drank some Sam Adams Octoberfest and bought one of my favorite t-shirts, so all in all, the weekend was a success.