Runners sometimes struggle with moderation.
At least that’s what avid runner Derek Young says when he explains the method he and his friends are using to encourage Tacoma to run more.
Young doesn’t just run occasionally. He runs all the time, and he’s constructed most of his social life around the sport.
So when Tacoma Runners, a club run by himself and two others, decided the South Sound needed an opportunity for people to run for free, they didn’t just dip a toe in the water.
They dove in.
Instead of staging one or two free five-kilometer races, the club plans to put on 52.
“Because we’re crazy,” Young said with a laugh.
Each Saturday in 2013, Tacoma Runners plans to stage a 5K in Point Defiance Park that will bring runners of all kinds out of the house.
“These races are for the young and the old,” Young said, “the slow and the fast.”
To participate, runners simply need to register at tacomarunners.com, print out the barcode they’re assigned and then show up at Point Defiance at 8 a.m. Saturday. The only requirement to participate is an email address.
Young says the club has already had more than 170 people register for the series and expects that number to grow.
At the first race on Jan. 5, 46 runners showed up and posted times ranging from 19 minutes, 32 seconds (for winner Ramon Wood) to 37:40.
“It’s been great,” said Young, whose club also staged test races in December. “At each race the winners have stayed around and cheered for the other runners.”
Young says the mission of the series is simple. The club wants to encourage more people to run.
Young coordinates the series with his girlfriend, Sarah Cutting, and his friend Rob McNair-Huff.
The idea for the series came after Young and Cutting spent a year in Europe. They noticed similar free running series in parks around London. They signed up and loved the atmosphere.
“We were interested in having that open running environment with low barriers for those interested in trying it out,” Young said.
Runners are often asked to pay $25 or more to participate in 5K fun runs, and that price tag can scare some people off, especially if they’re registering a family.
Tacoma Runners wanted to eliminate that obstacle.
While the runs are free, they won’t have the same feel of more expensive runs. There is no registration tent, no inflatable arch for you to run under at the finish line, no water stations, no timing chip to tie to your shoes, no announcer and no trophies.
“We have some signage and cones,” Young said. “ And amazing volunteers.”
The series also has an incentive program.
Those who run and/or volunteer at 10 races earn a shirt. Those who participate 25 or more Saturdays get what Young describes as “an even nicer shirt.”
Tacoma Runners developed its own software for the events. The software allows race organizers to scan runners’ barcodes at the park. When they finish, they are handed a chip that denotes their finishing place. The chip and barcode are scanned and race results are almost immediately posted on the club’s websites.
Young has some ideas for adding some bells and whistles to the program. Race winners could soon receive virtual trophies they can post online.
And Young plans to make changes that will allow runners to register their dogs.
Making running fun has been the club’s goal since it was founded in January 2010, and it seems to be paying off.
Seven runners showed for the first event. Three years later it has more than 2,000 members.
The club’s primary events over the last three years have been its free Thursday night beer runs that start or finish at a different Tacoma bar or restaurant. These 5K runs start at 6:30 p.m. and can draw more than 100 runners.
Young hopes the Saturday 5K series will soon consistently draw 100 or more too.
The club has lined up sponsors including Rainier Connect and Harmon Brewing Co. to offset the cost of permits, race day coffee and other expenses.
For Young, Cutting and McNair-Huff, coordinating 104 runs per year can feel like a full-time job, but they’re rewarded for their time.
Young says he likes seeing people fall in love with running the way he has.
“We had guy come out who could barely run and now he’s doing 50-milers,” Young said. “And we have people that come out who are just happy that they are little faster than they were last week. I like to see that as much as I like seeing guys going toe to toe to finish first.”
Saturday 5K Series
When: Saturdays at 8 a.m.
Location: Point Defiance Park.
Start: Races start at the Five Mile Drive gate that keeps the road closed to vehicle traffic on Saturday mornings.
Register: Go to tacomarunners.com.Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.