26th Loudoun Street Mile will take off Monday
Winchester — While all the usual elements will be there, the 26th annual Loudoun Street Mile will be a little more enhanced this year.
A big bump in participation last year revealed to race coordinator Mark Stickley that the annual series of road races held Memorial Day in downtown was on the right track.
With several changes he is adding this year, he thinks it will continue to be a premiere race for seasoned runners, enthusiastic walkers and families alike.
“It was really exciting to see the growth last year, and I hope we can continue it,” said Stickley, who owns Runners’ Retreat, a store on the Loudoun Street Mall, and has been organizing the event for 11 years.
The event begins at 8 a.m. Monday with a fitness walk, followed by a women’s race, the Boy’s Mile, the Girl’s Mile, two men’s races, and a Tot Trot 100-yard dash for children 5 and younger.
The large bump in participation the race experienced in 2012 – 516 racers, up from 325 in 2011 — took Stickley by surprise. He didn’t have any specific theory about the increase other than word of mouth getting out about the race.
The increase also helped the purpose behind the race — it raised $3,400 for The Laurel Center, a shelter for abused women in Winchester, he said.
The Laurel Center has been involved with the Loudoun Street Mile for more than 10 years, said Nancy Peterson, domestic violence program coordinator. The center is thankful not only to be the beneficiary of the event, but for the opportunity to raise awareness about its “presence in the community and the programs we have that serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” she said. “Each and every participant is making a difference and supporting our mission to empower victims of domestic and sexual violence.”
The Laurel Center’s volunteers participate by staffing each intersection from the beginning of the race up until the runners reach Cork Street and finish on the Loudoun Street Mall, she said.
The two biggest race fields last year were the women’s race, which had about 130, and the Kids’ Mile, which also had 130, Stickley said. Because of the large field in the children’s category, he split the field into boys and girls races this year.
The need for the split is a sign that the race is doing well and meshes with his focus of making the race a family event. “We are unique in that mom and dad can run the same course as the kids — just at different times.”
Besides the split, the biggest change to this year’s race is that it will go to a chip timing system, replacing the previous hand timing, Stickley said. The chips will offer several advantages to this year’s race — most of which is the accuracy.
“With a mile race, you have people finishing so fast and so close together — there is no room for error,” he said.
Since the disposable chips are attached to racers’ number bibs, they can be handed out in advance, so people don’t have to stand in line to get them on the morning of the race, he said. If they register early, people can pick up their packets and go directly to the starting line Monday.
The cost of the chip system added about $2,000 to the race budget, so Stickley increased the entry fee for adult runners and families.
The entry fees through Sunday are $20 for runners, $15 for walkers and the Kid’s Mile, and $10 for Tot Trot participants. The cost goes up $5 on race day.
Families of four or more can pre-register for a flat fee of $60 through Sunday. The special price is not available online or on race day, when the cost goes to $70.
The race entry includes a special T-shirt with an image of the newly renovated Loudoun Street Mall. Stickley was excited to see the finished downtown area and wanted to showcase it on the shirt.
Because of the change though, he lost the marker on the mall that signified the end of the 1-mile race and decided to have the course re-certified. The races will begin at Blue Ridge Electric at 1604 S. Loudoun St. and still end at the Old Court House Civil War Museum on the mall.
To make the races more attractive to competitive participants, Stickley has added more prize money and the number of people who receive it.
The prize money awards in the men’s and women’s categories are $350 for first place, $250 for second place, $175 for third place, $100 for fourth place, and $50 for fifth place.
There also is a prize of $75 for the top male and female older than 40 and awards for the top three participants in each age group. The age groups are in five-year increments to age 49 in men and 39 in women and in 10-year increments afterward. Walkers and children receive ribbons.
Moise Joseph of Haiti, who has won the last four years in a row in the men’s race, finished in 4 minutes, 3 seconds last year — a course record — and could return to try to continue his streak, Stickley said.
Although he can’t be sure, Stickley thinks part of the growing appeal for the race is that it is “breaking the stereotype that you have to be fast to be in a road race.”
People can register online at loudounstreetmile.com or in person at Runners’ Retreat, 135 N. Loudoun St. For more information, call the store at 540-665-8394.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com.