Several months ago I received an email letting me know that the CRIM Festival of Races in Flint, Michigan was adding a competitive 10-mile walk to their line-up.
The CRIM Festival is well known in the U.S. as a great race for both elite participants and community involvement. It began in 1977 as a 10-mile run and over the years has seen the addition of an 8k run and walk, a 5k run and walk, a 5-k race walk event on the Friday evening before the Saturday festival of races, and now the 10-mile competitive walk.
After experiencing so much frustration with Ontario race organizers in the past two years, I decided to go to Flint to see how they managed a “competitive walk”. As it turns out, they managed it quite nicely. At the race expo I received a race kit containing two bibs – one for the front and one for the back. Both bibs were a different colour from the bibs of the runners. Both front and back bibs had my race number written on it. There were monitors on the course to ensure people were walking but they were not looking for the technical form of racewalkers.
Runners and walkers for the 10-mile event started at 8am. The crowds were dramatic and inspiring. The night before the race there had been plenty of excitement with tornado warnings and tornado devastation in other parts of the state. Still in the morning, it looked like thunderstorms were a possibility.
There were several race volunteers standing in the crowd about 300 metres back from the start line holding signs that said “Competitive Walk”. Walkers, and lots of runners, lined up behind these volunteers. The competitive 10-mile walk did not offer prizes and results were to be listed by chip time, so crossing the start line quickly was not important.
Once the race did start, the crowds dictated speed but it wasn’t long before the crowds thinned out and, with the entire road being closed for the race, it was relatively easy to walk at a satisfying pace.
Aid stations along the course were plentiful and plentifully stocked. Lack of water was just not an issue. The course went through the University of Michigan grounds, the downtown area, and some leafy residential areas of Flint before returning to finish over the famous paving stones of Saginaw Street. With the roads completely closed for the entire 10 miles, plenty of competitors for company, and enthusiastic volunteer support, it was an easy race to enjoy.
I highly recommend it as a road trip for those interested in trying something different. A mere 4 to 5 hour drive from the GTA, depending on the state of the border, it would make a fun weekend to go down on the Friday afternoon, get your race kit and visit the excellent race expo, watch the 5k race walk state championship on the Friday evening, then walk either the 8k or 10 mile on Saturday morning. The race organizers go all out to provide fuel, hydration, and entertainment at the finish area. You still have time for a little cross-border shopping and you can be home easily by Saturday night.
Seeing how the CRIM race organizers managed so many different races so well with both walking and running divisions, it confirms that lack of will is the ONLY barrier to welcoming the growing power walking competitors to events.