Fall Classic has record numbers for registration
September 24th, 2011

From Friday's Daily Gleaner:

Downtown Fredericton is going to be overrun this weekend with competitors of all ages taking part in what is shaping up to be the largest Fall Classic Road Race in the history of the event.

Karen Roberts, race director of the 29th annual running, confirmed over 400 runners have already registered for Sunday's event and mentioned a possible extra 100 participants could show up on race day. If her ballpark estimate holds true, it will be a spike of about 200 up from last year's total.

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With middle school and high school components added to to the Fall Classic road race, which takes place this Sunday, the 29th annual edition of the event should be the biggest yet. There are also 10k road race and 21.k half marathon events, as well as a 5k run and walk.

Roberts encourages everyone to come out and cheer on the runners for Sunday's event. The middle school race is set to start at 8 a.m. with Irving Kids' Run at 8:30 a.m. and the half marathon at 9 p.m. All other races commence at 10 a.m.

The races start from Queen Square and will run across the Saint John River, and along the Nashwaak River.

She cited a number of reasons for the increase in participation, including an influx of younger runners. The organizing committee is hoping for the youth contingent to comprise approximately one quarter of all participants.

Dianne Sharpe, coordinator of the children and youth runs, said new incentives such the 3K middle school race has sparked interest. The winning school receives a plaque, in other words bragging rights, for added measure.

"It's fun because there's rivalry between the middle schools," Sharpe said.

The majority of young runners are Fredericton-based with a few coming from the Saint John. Sharpe is hoping, however, to expand provincially.

She said Run New Brunswick, an association gaining prominence in the province, along with promotion in the school systems, are doing wonders for the sport at the youth level.

Small clubs that focus on the development of younger runners, both competitive and recreational, have been sprouting up across the Fredericton area in recent years. The Fast Tracks, a club of similar nature that Sharpe is associated with, offers insight and technique for young athletes looking to develop their skills in track and field and cross country events.

"It's really just promoting the sport of running and teaching children about running and developing them as runners," she said.

As the sport is expanding its presence in the province, Run NB has begun attaching youth races to its usual circuit events, much like the three youth-specific races to be run alongside this year's Fall Classic.

A 5K high school race will be run with the middle school challenge as well as the second annual 1K Irving Kids' Run, a non-competitive event for children with the purpose of exposing the sport to young athletes.

"We really try to make it a fun and exciting atmosphere with lots of positive reinforcement with what they're doing," Sharpe said.

"It doesn't matter how fast they are. It's the fact that they are doing it and finishing - it's a huge thing."

Roberts said incorporating the new 21.1K half marathon and hosting the Run NB 10K provincial championships is also a huge draw.

"Last year, we actually had a lot of people ask why didn't have the half marathon. That distance seems to be growing in popularity across the globe," Roberts said.

This year, the Capital City Road Runners, the event organizers and the local running club, simply decided to run the event and see how it works. The 10K provincial championship, it attracts elite runners from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, most of whom are seeking circuit points.

Roberts said the sport has steadily gained in popularity in recent years, so much so that the event calendar is nearly booked solid.

"It's almost at a point where you have to be very careful what date you pick to organize an event because there are too many."

From its humble beginnings, the event has now blossomed into a high-profile event. Roberts said the first Fall Classic was started by five men who met ran together during their lunch hour.

"Slowly but surely they wanted to promote their motto 'to keep the fun in running.'", she said. And they really wanted emphasize that running isn't strenuous or awful. I think the first year they decided to see how many they could get to come race, and it was very informal and grew from there."

Today, the non-profit event receives significant sponsorship to run the race with any additional funding going to charities such as the Fredericton SPCA and the Canadian Diabetes Association, who volunteer at the Classic.

"We want to give back to the community and to some of the charities," Roberts said.

"It's a nice way to give back and we get the volunteers we need."

For more information, please visit ccrr.ca/fallclassic.php.