As the race director for the Crim Festival of Races, Andy Younger witnesses the excitement of runners crossing the finish line and the incredible spirit of the community supporters, but every year there are moments that provide waves of satisfaction that have little to do with running.
“Without fail, every year, I hear people say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that Flint was this nice,’” Younger said. “And that’s what the Crim is really about. It’s not just a race, it’s a celebration that shows off the best of Flint and changes the way people look at our city.
“Flint is roaring back and people may not realize all of the positive things that are happening downtown. Restaurants are thriving and new ones are opening all the time. Businesses are succeeding, and we’re growing by leaps and bounds. It’s completely different from what people picture.”
The 43rd annual Crim races and surrounding community events are set to highlight Flint on Aug. 23-24. In addition to the 10-mile, 5-mile and 5K races on Saturday, Aug. 24, the city will host the Michigan Mile and a free “Rock the Block Crimstock,” concert on the evening of Aug. 23. The post-race celebration will feature more live music and a festive atmosphere.
Each year the Crim welcomes up to 15,000 runners and as many as 50,000 spectators. It is among the five largest 10-mile races in the U.S. and attracts many of the country’s top runners, including an appearance by Parker Stinson this year. Stinson holds the American record in the 25K, and it’s possible he’ll challenge the 1983 U.S. 10-mile record held by Michigan native Greg Meyer.
The 10-mile race began in August 1977 by Michigan House Speaker Bobby Crim, and the ensuing years have seen it develop into an institution in Michigan running circles. The Crim Fitness Foundation, which organizes race day, focuses its year-round efforts on improving the community’s health and quality of life.
“The entire weekend totally transforms downtown,” Younger said. “There are just people everywhere and you can feel the energy of the city and the shared experience that people are feeding off.”
The race courses wind through Flint’s downtown, with the signature 10-mile event taking runners through the scenic University of Michigan-Flint campus and toward Kettering University, one of the best engineering schools in the country. Each university is involved in the race and in a deep commitment to the community, Younger said.
Participants will then head through the Mott Park neighborhood, a region of the city marked by green space and public parks, before hitting the storied “Bradley Hills,” Flint’s version of the Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill.
“The Bradley Hills are a nice feature that make the Crim challenging for runners of all abilities,” Younger said. “It’s kind of that midway point, and once you’re done, you know you’re on your way in to the finish.”
Next comes the city’s southwest side and a visit to the Woodcroft Estates subdivision, where historic homes feature a look at Flint’s past in the structures that date to the 1920s. The neighborhood, Younger said, generally hosts the greatest concentration of race support outside of downtown.
“It’s legendary what they do out there for the runners and there’s never a dull moment,” Younger said. “There are crowds of people and bands and ‘unofficial aid stations’ handing out all sorts of refreshments to keep people going. There are a lot of good distractions in Woodcroft, and the residents really get into it.”
The final mile of the Crim leads runners through the American Mile, where veterans, active military and their supporters cheer and distribute hand-held flags to participants. It’s a show of national pride and spirit, and a way for people to give back to each other, Younger said.
“It’s that final extra burst of energy, and it’s cool,” he said. “It gives runners a chance to show their appreciation to the armed forces, and it’s a fun thing for them to do for the community.”
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