We Run This Town0
Drive through Kalamazoo any Saturday morning and you are apt to spot runners, perhaps hundreds of them if you encounter one of several large training groups. Home to the Kalamazoo Marathon, Borgess Run for the Health It, the Kalamazoo Area Runners (KAR), Gazelle Sports, and a running boom that has continued for more than a decade, Kalamazoo is a running town and shows no signs of slowing down - literally.
The Kalamazoo Marathon and Borgess Run for the Health of It, scheduled May 1-3, engage the entire community and attract more than 8,000 participants to events including a Kids' Run, Motivational Mile, 5k Walk, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10k, and 5k.
In addition, the events offers innovative challenges such as the Catalyst Community Challenge Team Competition, 50-State Challenge, Earn Your Mittens Challenge, and, new for 2015, the Midwest Half & Half Challenge.
Kalamazoo Area Runners' roots date back to 1967, beginning with the Mall City Pacers, incorporating as the Kalamazoo Track Club in 1979, and eventually evolving to the Kalamazoo Area Runners in 2002.
In the 10 years from 2004 to 2014, Kalamazoo Area Runners has grown from 200 to more than 1,400 members, propelling it to become the largest running club in the State of Michigan.
Today, Kalamazoo Area Runners, which is an affiliate of Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) organizes, co-organizes, or supports more than 25 local events, programs and group runs a year, and hired its first Executive Director, Joy Mills, in September 2013.
The Portage Winter Blast Half Marathon & 5k, Kal-Haven Trail Relay and Ultra, Children's Easter Egg Hunt Run, Kalamazoo Klassic and Kids' Klassic, Jack-O'-Lantern 5k and 10k Trail Run, Turkey Trot Time Prediction 5k Run, and Run Through the Lights are some of the larger local events organized or co-organized by Kalamazoo Area Runners.
KAR program offerings include the Beyond Half Marathon Training Program, Fast Track 5k and 10k Training Program, and the Safari Half and Full Marathon Training Program (in partnership with Gazelle Sports).
The Kalamazoo Running Community is also no stranger to the national running spotlight. In 2013, Kalamazoo County was nationally recognized as a "Runner Friendly Community" by RRCA. In 2014, Gazelle Sports co-owners Chris Lampen-Crowell and Ken Sung were inducted into the Running Specialty Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Kalamazoo Klassic, organized by KAR and local non-profit MRC Industries, Inc., served as the RRCA National 10k Championship event, and has served as an RRCA State or Regional Championship each year since.
In order to receive the honor of being designated a Runner Friendly Community, Kalamazoo County had to demonstrate that the region meets the program's criteria, which include community infrastructure and community and local government support. This includes an infrastructure that can foster physical activity in a safe environment, a proven track record that organizations and businesses work together to promote running as a health exercise and sport, and positive relationships between the running community and local government.
The significance of the impact KAR and the local running community have on the lives of those who become involved is evident through the life changing stories of its members, including Zachary Baker, who will be featured in a blog post later this week. Stay tuned!