Grand Slam Central


March 16, 2007

Races peek into future of Triple Crown


The Anthem 5K Fitness Classic’s phenomenal fusion of turnout and talent on March 3 was unprecedented within the Louisville Triple Crown of Running.

The race established records for entries (7,370) and actual participants (6,204) in its fourth year and attracted a field of elite out-of-state runners unseen in any series event but the Papa John’s 10 Miler during the recent four years it hosted the USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship.

That generated abundant speculation about the future of the series, which was founded in 1984.

“The (Anthem 5K) has grown tremendously in the three years that I have run it,” said Shawn Wilson, a 28-year-old runner who lives in Louisville. “It's amazing to see the growth in such a short period of time. It’s equally exciting that more elites from outside the Kentuckiana area have begun to participate. These seem to indicate that the Triple Crown of Running may have its place on the proverbial ‘map’ as a premiere venue for the sport of running.”

Any short-term impact will be evident in the 27th annual Rodes City Run 10K on Saturday and the Papa John’s 10 Miler on March 31.

“The success of the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic has raised the awareness of the series to a broader spectrum of participants,” said Fleet Feet Louisville owner Camille Estes, who has directed Triple Crown races in previous years and now serves as a consultant. “For many of the newer participants, the Anthem 5K Fitness Classic is the first time they have ever participated in a run/walk. So if half of those 1,000 new participants decide they can go for the 10K, it will grow by 500. Half of the new 10K participants decide to give the Papa John’s 10 Miler a try, you grow by 250 - and the entire series will grow exponentially.”

The Rodes City Run had 5,544 entries at the end of the early registration process, and that number likely will increase by several hundred during late registration at Louisville Slugger Field from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday ($25) and in the Fifth Street parking garage from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday morning ($40). There were a record 5,819 total entries last year.

Anthem 5K runner-up Matt Downin, who won the individual title at the 2006 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships, will not return for the Rodes City Run. Neither will third-place Kyle Baker of Grand Rapids, Mich., or fourth-place Hunter Spencer of Indianapolis. But winner Chris Swisher, a former Miami (Ohio) University All-American now living in Fishers, Ind., and fifth-place Abdelaziz Atmani of Indianapolis both are coming back.

Kevin Alessandro, who coordinates the local Fleet Feet-Brooks Elite Development team that typically dominates local races, thinks the influx of elite runners is a positive development.

“It definitely helps the race because other fast runners hear about it and want to come in,” Alessandro said. “And it’s better for us, even though they make it more competitive for the top spots. We might not finish as high as we otherwise would, but it makes us run faster.”

Less competitive runners like North Oldham High School teacher Lee Anne Hill offered similar thoughts. She and Steve Rauh, another teacher who also coaches cross country, recruited more than 20 school employees and students to run in all of the Triple Crown races. The Anthem 5K was Hill’s first road race.

“I am not in it to win anything,” she said. “I just want to beat some personal times, and to be honest I was really motivated and inspired to see all of these seasoned runners at the Anthem 5K. We all thought it was awesome to be out together, running in a city that values healthy activity and standing in the midst of elite runners. If anything, seeing those people makes me strive to be a better runner.”

Fairdale High School teacher Dave Myers, who also coaches cross country and track, does not run to win, either.

“When I got home (after the Anthem 5K), my daughters wanted to know how I did in my race,” he said. “When I told them that I didn't win - again - they wanted to know if I did my best. When I answered that I did, they let me know that it was OK and maybe next time. I guess everyone’s awards come in different packages.”

And the increasing popularity of the Triple Crown suggests that it has a package for everyone.