Cool Run is still going Strong

STEVE CORNELIUS | CJ

Runners took to the late-night streets of Somerset in the Cool Run at Midnight 5K run/walk event on Friday night.

The 24th running of the Cool Run took to the downtown streets of Somerset at 11:59 p.m., on Friday night. With 253 participants, covered in neon glow lights, late-night Somerset looked like a parade of fireflies in the dark hours of Saturday morning

"This is the most historic race in Somerset, and we've had some incredible runners in the past," Cool Run at Midnight Race Director Todd Meadows stated. "The history of this race is remarkable with guys running times in the low 15 minutes. This being a fast course and being run at midnight, brings a little bit of novelty to this event. The Cool Run is something special and different."

The Cool Run offers an easy out-and-back course with hardly no elevation. With the cool darkness in the midnight air, the local 5K participants seemed to enjoy the experience of the late-night running event.

"It's one of a kind," Meadows stated. "There's no other race like it in Somerset, as far as being at midnight. We had that idea five years ago of staging the race at midnight, and didn't really know how people would respond. A lot of times people were like, 'I don't want to run at midnight'. But when they come and do it, they have a blast."

Sixteen-year-old Somerset resident Will Gullett was the first to cross the finish line on Saturday morning with a time of 17:59 for the 5,000 meters. Fourteen-year-old Georgetown resident Riley James was the first female finisher with a 20:22 clocking.

The Cool Run is just one of hundreds of 5K run/walk events that is staged throughout the year in the Somerset area. However when the inaugural Cool Run was first staged in 1998, it was one of the first 5K events in the local area. Dr. Joe Weigel, who led a team of running enthusiasts, put together the local area's Cool Run 5K event in an effort to promote physical fitness to all.

"There had been other local road races before the Cool Run started, but most were longer distances like eight miles and 10K," Weigel stated. "And these longer runs mostly appealed to a small group of dedicated runners. There was a group of local runners, who were interested in trying to promote road racing in this community. That group came together in 1998 to try to do something brand new and different."

From the start, Weigel and his Cool Run race promotion team wanted the event to help promote physical fitness and to raise money in support of the local high school running programs. Almost a quarter of a century later, the Cool Run is still donating money to all the local cross county and track programs, as well as the Phoenix Wellness running group.

"It has always been the Cool Run's goal to raise enough funds every year and provide financial support to the local running programs," Weigel stated. "It makes me happy that money is still being generated for the local running programs."

In the beginning, Weigel had hoped to one day grow the Cool Run to massive numbers in the range of 1,000 participants. And while the Cool Run has enjoyed a large number of participants each year, it has not came close to Weigel's initial dream of 1,000 runners.

However, 24 years after the Cool Run's first event in 1998, the local grandfather 5K event has spawned thousands of other 5K run-walk events almost every weekend in the Somerset area.

"The significance of the Cool Run has been its horizontal growth, and spreading out an entire series of races in Somerset throughout the year," Weigel stated. "I don't think we're ever going to have a thousand participants in a road race, as I envisioned to begin with, but the fact that road racing has spread relatively dramatically from the point of view of its frequency is the thing that is gratifying to me."

"Now, many local organizations have access to fundraising capabilities through these 5K races," Weigel said. "The nice thing about 5K events are they are available to everybody on every level. They're available to people who walk alone, they're available to young people, they're available to older adults, they're available to serious runners, and they're available to 'middle of the road' runners. That's the beautiful thing about the 5K distance - it is short enough to be manageable for most people and it's accessible to lots and lots of people."

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Editor and can be reached at scornelius@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

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