Organizers of the Patriots Day Run felt they needed to do something to set their race apart from the dozens of other 5K events that crowd the summer weekends in West Michigan.
Their solution? Move the race to a Friday night and host it under the lights at Pigeon Creek County Park.
Based on Friday’s inaugural Patriots Day/Pigeon Creek 5K Twilight Run, they’re well on their way to reaching that goal.
“We just thought it would be a neat idea,” said John Tarr, coach of the Buccaneers’ boys cross country team. “We figured we would lose a few runners, having it on a Friday. But we ended up with about 200 runners and usually we have about 250, so it wasn’t a big loss.
“I figure once we give this a chance, let it work again another year, it could become one of these destination races. People seem to like the idea of coming out and running like this.”
Former Buccaneer cross country and track and field star Joe Duff was the top finisher at Friday’s race with a time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds.
The current Grand Valley State University runner said he enjoyed Friday’s event and the fact that it stood out from the countless other events that he’s run in.
“It was different from anything I’ve ever done before,” Duff said. “It’s fresh, and it’s new. You’re not running on the roads around where you always run. Running for Grand Haven, you run around the street, on their campus the whole time. So, it’s different. It’s nice.”
Tarr hopes the moves he and Buccaneers’ girls coach Scott Przystas have made will keep the Patriots Day Run a popular destination for local runners.
“There are so many races now. There is so much competition for these 5Ks,” Tarr said. “We just felt like we had to do something a little bit unique to start attracting — and change the race up — to start attracting more people for the race. And this could do it. I don’t think it did it this year. I think it’s going to do it in the future, though.”
Tarr is proud of the support the event receives from former Buccaneers’ runners.
“We get guys who ran 15 years ago,” he said. “It’s kind of a little bit of a homecoming.”
The event serves as a fundraiser for the Buccaneers’ high school and middle school cross country programs. Tarr said he’s humbled by the fact that so many former runners continue to support the program in so many different ways.
“It’s nice to see them. A lot of these guys support the team financially. We get these people who were involved with the program years ago who continue to come back to the program and give to us every year,” Tarr said. “It’s really very nice of them to do this, and we really appreciate that these guys come back after all these years again, and again and again to give us money and make things better for these kids.”
By Keith Allison, Tribune Intern