6:30 p.m.: Kids, seniors marathon
7:10 a.m.: Opening ceremonies
7:30 a.m.: 4-mile start
8 a.m.: Half-marathon start
9 a.m.: 10K start
Races begin outside Parkview Field and end at home plate.
An event that attracts more than 1,200 volunteers, and needs them at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, can safely say it's more than off-and-running.
The Fort4Fitness Festival has cemented its status as a Fort Wayne staple with huge numbers across the board as it stages its fifth annual event.
“Our goal the last couple years has been to see how big we can make it so we don't turn someone away,” Fort4Fitness executive director Brad Kimmel said. “We keep hitting that capacity.”
More than 9,800 people – not counting those volunteers – are registered to participate in the this weekend's half-marathon, 10K run, 4-mile run/walk, kids marathon and seniors marathon. The event kicks off with packet pickups from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday, and the last 1.2 miles of the kids and seniors incremental-style marathons at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The big races start with opening ceremonies at 7:10 a.m. Saturday outside Parkview Field, with the 4-mile kicking off at 7:30, followed by the half-marathon and the 10K.
Some city streets will be closed during that time, but with some 15,000 people are expected downtown Friday and Saturday.
“The city has been tremendously supportive,” Kimmel said. “Last year, we redesigned the course to run through Foster Park and some other communities, and it's become a neighborhood block-party environment.”
The event, which concludes for all races at Parkview Field, will also include more than 50 booth and vendor areas within the stadium. It has added a post-race party and celebration of its fifth-year anniversary with live music and concessions until 1 p.m. Saturday.
There are are other new features this year, too.
Family and friends who want to track how their runner is progressing during the Saturday races can sign up for text messages or emails to be sent during the race. That service is available at the event's website, www.fort4fitness.org. Like everything at the event other than race registration – which has already closed – the tracking feature is available free of charge.
“Another thing we've added is 'Charity Partners,' and we have 17 different local non-profits that are now Charity Partners,” Kimmel said. “They can use the event to go out and raise money through pledges and whatnot to use for their mission and outreach.”
Fort4Fitness reports that 8,968 participants are registered for the Saturday races and that includes 4,694 who indicated on their registration that this will be their first Fort4Fitness event. Runners from 26 states will participate, including a contingent from the Congo, Kimmel said.
“The key element is that we've built this around healthy living,” Kimmel said. “We're not just trying to attract the serious runner, although we're blessed with a lot of those. It's how we get the person off the couch and get them active.”