This is the the I believe 5th year in a row (Maybe its more than 5, I am not sure any more) that I have run the Elkhart County Fair Parade 5000. Typically on race day, it is a bright sunny day with temps in the 90’s. Which typically is my go to excuse for why I never run well in this race. But this year was different. Temps were in the mid 70s, with some sun and a threat of rain. Now mid 70s isn’t exactly cool for running, but it does lessen the impact of my excuse and for this race, is really great weather.
This race is run along the parade rout for the Elkhart County 4H fair so there are a lot of people along the course watching. The race is limited to 400 people, and this year, the number of registered runners did not hit that number. I am not sure as to why as the weather was as good as it will ever be. The race is also held on the first Sunday of the fair and starts roughly at 1:20pm (notice I said roughly, more on that later). You have to go to the fair grounds before the race, pick up your bib and shirt, and then either do a warm up to the start line which is probably a 2-2.5 mile run from the fair grounds, or you can take the shuttle bus.
As I mentioned, the race is scheduled to start at 1:20, or as soon as the roads are clear, and this includes trains. We are allowed to line up about 5-10 minutes before the race starts. And we wait, and wait, and wait. Finally we get word that we are waiting for a train to pass by. The race route crosses 2 sets of railroad tracks. I have been stopped at both sets of tracks in races in the past. The train we were waiting on was on the first set of tracks. So once that one goes by, we should be all set to go. Once they get the all clear, the race begins.
At about the 3/4 of a mile point, I heard the dreaded noise none of us wants to hear at this race, the train horn. Yep, another train. Goshen, where this race is held, is known for its trains. They just built a overpass to get over these tracks, but the course does not go on the overpass for whatever reason. It would be a nasty hill for a 5k race, but still better than having to stop.
Once we entered the Horse track, we had to run passed the finish line and then run a full lap around. By the time we were passed the finish line, it felt like my shoes weighed 5 pounds heavier. it was getting tough. I ran the third mile in 6:41. There was just no traction on the track.
Overall, the race was handled well. They have tried many times over the years to work with the trains to get them not to cross during the race, but they simply don’t care and just carry on with their business. Maybe the fair will decide to use the over pass in the future but I kind of doubt that will happen.
The race, for the second year in a row, gave out tech shirts to all participants. This is an improvement from the cotton shirts of the passed and the logos are looking better than in the past as well.
The one thing they need to work on is the awards. I now have the same small, cheap medal for the past 3 years. very generic. But for $25 registration fee, I cant complaint too much. Also, if you want to run this race in the future, pre register for the race. there is no race day registration.
One other thing they did differently this year was pull bandits off the starting line and off the course. This years bib was plain white with black numbers. First time they actually went with this. I did witness the race director kicking out a group of 5 or 6 runners who had what looked like past years bibs with the timing company logo on it. Some other runners told me they witnessed more of this before the race started. Nice to see races taking action.