By Leslie Thompson
They are packed like sardines in a can, corralled into a cattle drive of sorts, but nothing matters in these circumstances because excitement always prevails. Some stand still. Some fidget. Others wear earphones as a few hop up and down doing whatever it takes to keep those muscles warm. Suddenly, from the vantage point of a tiptoed stance, they see the front of the pack rush forward, and then they all know – it is race time.
One by one the runners rush through the neighborhood, gathering up bits of encouragement along the way. At the intersection, a group of kids with big grins reaches out for joyful, sweaty high-fives. A home on Walker blares Otis Redding from its front porch, and just two houses down a man dressed in a chicken suit cheers on the ever-moving crowd. Over on Young Avenue, an assembly of tiki torches lights the way in front of a luau where some runners get lei’d. A block over, a boisterous group surrounded by Christmas lights hands out Mardi Gras beads, and next door screaming teenage girls hold up posters, all brightly painted with reassuring words. A young woman serenades everyone with her acoustic guitar, and toward the end of the course, a man wearing Elvis sunglasses sits in a lawn chair off Evelyn, with his koozie-clad beverage in hand. He holds it up in the air and yells out to a friend, “Less than a half mile left. You can do it! We got a cold one waitin’ for ya, buddy!” Running this race is like running through a 4-mile long party.
The Cooper-Young Festival Friday 4 Miler has been a neighborhood tradition since 1991. For two decades, the spirited people of Cooper-Young have made this one of the most anticipated races of the year. From the volunteers to the Neighbors Light the Way parties, it is the community that makes this run such a success. The Cooper-Young Community Association hosts each year’s 4 Miler event in order to raise funds for the beautification and greater good of the neighborhood. Another September is just around the corner, and once again your help is welcome. Whether you are running in the race, volunteering, or simply cheering on the runners, you can help make it all happen.
This year’s run will take place on Friday, September 17 with a race start time of 7pm. Bluff City Sports will present this running event with the start/finish line located in front of their shop at 769 South Cooper, right next to the beloved Trestle Art. Start2Finish Event Management will control the registration and will have early race packet pick-up at three locations, and the Memphis Runners Track Club will set up the course. To assist the runners, new features have been added this year including large LCD screens at the start/finish line that provide pertinent race information and will help keep the event organized. A professional announcer will also be added to the race, as well as new, state-of-the-art Jaguar disposable bib-tag timing provided by Precision Race. Like last year, the race will have a staggered start, and three water stations will be provided, two on the race course and one large station at the finish line. Target, one of this year’s sponsors, will provide eco-friendly bags for the runners, and each bag will be full of goodies, including a Dri-Balance race shirt by Bluff City Sports with new art that features our neighborhood’s very own super hero, the almighty and powerful Captain Community.
The 4 Miler post-race party promises to be a fun time for all. This year runners can help themselves to an assortment of delicious food provided by Outback Steakhouse, Camy’s, and Easy Way. Target and Miller Genuine Draft 64 will make sure that plenty of cold beverages will be on hand to help beat the heat. In addition to this year’s wonderful food sponsors, several other sponsors will offer giveaways. All runners will be registered to win a free bicycle from the Peddler Bike Shop, and Chris Kauker with Douglas & Associates of Ameriprise will be on-site conducting drawings for free gift certificates to local businesses. Between race announcements live music will be provided by The Memphis Snake Doctors, a blues band fronted by bass player and longtime Cooper-Young resident, Steve Bishop.
What better way to get the energy pumping for Saturday’s Cooper-Young Festival than to attend the Festival 4 Miler on the night before? If you’re not a runner perhaps you might want to join in on the fun by hosting a Neighbors Light the Way party at your home. To get even more involved, you can contact the CYCA to inquire about volunteering at the event. If you have always wanted to run this exceptionally fun-filled race, but you just could not get past the front porch, now is the time to start training. Local resident Star Ritchey is leading a group of runners-in-training with her “Star Runners Couch to 4 Miler” training program. It is sponsored by Inbalance Fitness and it will have you running those seemingly impossible four miles in no time.
Please visit cooperyoung4miler.racesonline.com for more details and information regarding race registration and packet pick-up. For volunteer information and the latest community news from the CYCA, visit cooperyoung.org. Find details for the “Star Runners Couch to 4-Miler” program on Facebook or contact Star Ritchey at 901-461-2049 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.