CY Festival Friday 4 Miler turns 20

By Laura Johnson

Other than the appearance of Cooper-Young 4 Miler runner Richard Coletta, a lot has changed since the first race in 1992. We no longer have to worry about the CD in our Discman skipping while we run; we now have our entire music collection available on a device smaller than a beeper. In 1992, no one could post a note on Facebook and instantly let thousands of people know that they just passed the 3 mile marker. In the beginning things were quite different.

Former Cooper-Young Community Association President, Richard Coletta, said, “The first year was very challenging. It was the first time we attempted this kind of fundraiser.” He and another CY resident and running enthusiast, Tim Thomas, had an “ah-ha” moment standing at the corner of Cooper and Young. In that moment they came up with the unique features of the race. First, it would be held on the Friday night coinciding with the Festival; and second, a night race would allow for the creation of a distinctive post-race party.

The first race attracted around 200 runners, who celebrated afterward with pizza from Coletta’s Restaurant and beer provided by the Festival vendor. Steve Bishop’s band entertained the crowd and continued to play for the next four post-race parties. The race committee was then approached by Rodney Nash to see if he could play. Coletta said, “It was definitely nice to have people coming to us to be involved.” Camy’s Pizza, Easy Way, and Outback Steakhouse have been major contributors to the post-race party over the years. In fact, countless loyal sponsors have made this entire event possible, with some, such as National Economy Plumbers, Schwartz Electric, and Sowell and Co. Realtors (just to name a few), supporting the CYCA from almost the beginning.

One humorous memory that Coletta shared about the 4 Miler involved a food fight that resembled a scene from the movie Hook. Those involved will certainly remember the event. The post-race party was being held on Young down the street from a vacant building. There was a surplus of fruit leftover, and the organizers started a fruit throwing contest at the vacant building. Coletta explains, “It must have been a release of energy. We had been working so hard on the race and needed to let loose. We got to a ‘that’s enough’ moment when we realized that it was shameful, because we had just been trying to get people to behave.”

Since CY has a large artist community, it only made sense to feature a piece of art on the signature race T-shirt. According to Coletta, the T-shirts were a nightmare the first year. Over time and with the help of Bluff City Sports, the popular race T-shirt has become much less stressful. A very important accomplishment of this year’s race committee and the CYCA Board is that the artwork is finalized. This is the earliest in the year that it has ever been completed. For a sneak peak look carefully at the cover photo of Coletta holding the artwork.

The four mile route around CY has changed to give different blocks the opportunity to hold “Neighbors Light the Way” parties to support the runners. Coletta worked with the Memphis Track Runners Club the first year to figure out a race route that was the correct distance. The changing route has also coincided with the changing location of the post-race party; as participation grew they needed to find larger spaces to hold the event.

This past year over 1800 people ran the race. All of the hard work from those who were involved with the race in its inception has paid off in a big way. The funding that the CYCA receives from the race each year is turned into services and support for CY residents, truly making the neighborhood a better place to live, work, worship, and play.

While a lot has changed since 1992, a few things have remained the same – Cooper-Young neighbors still pull together to put on an exciting and unique race to raise funds and to kick off the Festival weekend.

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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