By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
It may not rival Ringling Brothers Circus as the Greatest Show on Earth, but as organizer Fred Geswein puts it, his annual Thanksgiving Day race is “the biggest show in town.”
That show, Fast Freddie’s Festive Five-Mile Foot Feast, is now in its 24th year and at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 22, when runners leave the Floyd County 4-H Fairgrounds for the start of the race, there may be a record number of participants.
“I think we will have over 1,000 runners this year,” said Geswein. “We are going to have ideal weather. It’s good to know we created this monster. I didn’t set out to do this, but it just caught on.”
Through Monday evening, there were already 916 entries. Runners can still sign-up from 3 to 7 p.m. today at the Floyd County 4-H Fairgrounds or on the morning of the race until 8:30 a.m. The entry fee is $30. The record attendance for the race was in 2009, when 1,041 runners participated.
“It’s a tradition and homecoming of sorts,” Geswein said of the race. “It’s kind of flattering to see these kinds of numbers.”
He said across the country, there are more road races on Thanksgiving or the weekend after than any other time of the year.
Runners will take off from the 4-H Fairgrounds at 9 a.m., will go north to Mount Tabor Road, east to Grant Line Road, south to the entry of Sam Peden Community Park, through the park to Schell Lane, south to Daisy Lane, west to Green Valley Road and north to the finish at the 4-H.
“It’s a good course,” Geswein said. “I think [the popularity] is that a lot of people run now to lose weight, and this is a way for some to get in their miles, be home early and still enjoy Thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong with that. Plus running is vogue right now.”
There is also a walking course which leaves the 4-H Fairgrounds and goes around the pedway at Community Park.
Besides age group awards, there will also be more than $1,000 worth of door prizes to be given away following the race.
Geswein said his event is not only challenging for the weekend jogger, but is a race which attracts several top-notch runners. The men’s record is 23 minutes, 55 seconds set by Cory Thorne in 2009 while the women’s mark of 27:53 was set last year by Sarah Pease.
Geswein said the success of the event and the smoothness of the way it is operated wouldn’t be possible without his volunteers, many of whom have been working the race for years.
“They make it all happen,” he said. “The problem is not the roads or the number of runners, it’s how well we progress people through the chute at the finish. The problem comes when bandits [runners who do not officially enter the race] go through the chute which really messes up how quickly we can process results. I can’t stop them if they want to run in the race and not pay. But they should be considerate enough not to run through the chute.”
Proceeds from the race benefit the Type I Diabetes Education Program at Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services. Geswein said he is planning a few surprises for the 25th Fast Freddie’s event next year, to help celebrate New Albany’s Bicentennial.
Chuck Crowley, cross country coach at Providence High School, has only missed one race since its inception and said it’s a fun event.
“[It’s a] great way to start the holiday ... burn a lot of calories so you can eat more later in the day,” Crowley said. “Challenging course, well managed and accurate. Nice awards and great-looking shirts.”