Wednesday, July 24, 2019

15,000 Runners Crossed Fourth of July Finish Lines in Texas

Some 15,000 runners crossed a Texas finish line that was either Independence Day-themed or during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

And to no one’s surprise, the greater Houston area and the D-FW Metroplex accounted for just about 60 percent of those finishers – both areas accounting for more than 4,500 each.

Yet for another year, the Run Wild 5K, held just north of downtown Houston from Hennessy City Park and St. Arnold Brewery, produced Texas’ largest Independence Day-themed race with some 1,116 finishers.

It is the fourth straight year that the race has held the title after the then-Baytown Bud Heat Wave 5-Miler surpassed it by two finishers in 2015.

Additionally, it was the third straight year that the event surpassed 1,000 finishers – the only Texas race to do so on the Fourth of July weekend.

Last year, the race had 1,392 finishers, but was down 276 finishers this year.

Traditionally, when the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, as it did last year, finisher numbers are higher as fewer people are less likely to travel and take a long weekend.

What’s not known is whether this year’s decline was due to increased promotional activity from a second-year race, the TXU Energy Wings of Freedom 5K and 10K, that was held at another one of Houston’s popular breweries, Karbach Brewing Company.

After a low-key debut a year ago with 186 finishers in a timed 5K, Wings of Freedom added a 10K and saw 598 runners cross a common finish line – an increase of 202 in the 5K and an additional 210 in a new 10K race.

Bumping the Baytown Bud Heat Wave 5-Miler from the runner-up spot a year ago was the Independence Day 8K, located just west of Meyerland Mall in Houston, and it held on to its place as the second largest race by finishers at a single distance with 827 finishers – up 27 from 2017.

This year was the third year for the 8K, which is part of the Houston Running Company’s Houston Holiday Run Series.

But the Heat Wave, which moved to Mont Belvieu when the race’s primary sponsor Wismer Distributing moved its headquarters from Baytown before last year’s race, had the third most finishers of any event this year as the former bellweather 5-mile race and second-year 5K brought 839 finishers across its common finish line.

451 finished the Michelob Ultra 5K while 388 stopped the clock on the renamed Texas Bud Heat Wave 5-miler.

Last year’s combined 727 finishers – 429 in the 5-miler and 298 in the 5K – were likely lessened by threatening rains on race day a year ago.

The uptick at the 5K distance comes a large part from Running Alliance Sport including it as part of its Texas 5K Series.

The second largest event in Texas – with 903 combined finishers – was Five on the 4th in Dallas, which was produced by runDallas and the BMW Dallas Marathon.

Throw in the race’s untimed 2-miler and kids races, the event registered just under 1,200, according to race officials.

A five-miler only just a year ago with 508 finishers, that distance lost 31 finishers, but gained 426 finishers in the 5K.

It was a complete outperformance – a year later - of the Bud Heat Wave’s switch to a two-race event.

Third individually was Frisco’s Hotter ‘N Firecrackers 5K, which has more than doubled its numbers of timed finishers in the last three years.

Initially marketed as a glow run in 2015, the evening, night before the Fourth race dipped to under 400 finishers – 360 – a year later.

However, the flat course, even with its many turns, has sent the race’s numbers to 447 two years ago, 572 last year and 753 this July 3rd.

The fourth position of the weekend is actually held by a non-themed race – the Christmas in July 5K in Houston, which benefits – and starts and finishes in front of – the Salvation Army.

Produced by iRun Productions, the race grew by an exact 20 percent in terms of timed finishers from 433 to 521.  Held on Saturday, July 6 this year, the race features two long straightaways on the streets of downtown Houston.

Fourth and fifth as far as Independence Day-themed races belong to the San Antonio Road Runners Freedom Day Four Miler and Mission’s Stars & Stripes 5K.

The last five years, the Freedom Day 4-Miler has held positions of sixth, fifth, sixth, tied for sixth and fourth this year.

With its 505 timed finishers, the race was down a minuscule three from 2018 and has also seen 499 finishers in 2016.

Produced by Sole Racing, the Stars & Stripes 5K launched in 2016 with 474 timed finishers.

A year later, its 710 timed finishers made it the third largest in Texas behind the Run Wild 5K and the Baytown Bud Heat Wave 5-Miler.

However, the last two years has seen the race fall to 539 and 498 finishers, but still holding on to the fifth spot both years.

Four years ago, the largest event was the 30th annual Liberty By The Lake 5K and 10K in The Colony with its combined 991 finishers (753 in the 5K and 238 in the 10K), but it is down almost 38% since then with 616 timed finishers in the two races this year.

The West Texas Running Club held its 50th anniversary Firecracker Run in Brownfield on the Fourth of July.  Featuring a 10K, 5K and a timed one-mile kids’ run, the race is one of Texas’ oldest.

Up until last year, the 10K was a 10-mile race.  While the number of finishers increased from 45 to 71 a year ago, the distance only produced 68 finishers this year, including the author.

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