The Health Plus Crim Festival of Races: Then, Now and One Day

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The 39th annual Health Plus Crim Festival of Races takes place Saturday August 22nd this year starting at 7:30 a.m., with mile long races being held the night before.  Saturday’s races include  a 10 mile, 8K, 5K and Teddy Bear Trot for children twelve and younger.  Not only are there more races available than ever for this event, but the race has been changing in other ways since the first Bobby Crim Road Race in 1977.  In fact, the history, current news and goals of the race are quite intriguing.

     Bobby Crim, whom the race was originally named after, came from a blue collar background in Missouri.  “He traveled around the world almost like a hobo,” said Andrew Younger, the race’s current director.  He then decided he wanted to be educated and attended University of Michigan-Flint on the GI bill as a member of the military.  He worked as a teacher.  Also, because he said teaching did not pay the bills year round he began engaging in

building and other trades.  “He fell into politics because of teaching and because he saw things needed to be donein the community,” Younger said.  Crim rose quickly in politics and eventually became Speaker of the House for the House of Representatives.  In 1977, he saw a Special Olympics event in the Flint area and decided he wanted to raise money for the cause.  Because he had begun running himself, he sponsored a 10 mile race. 

     The race took place on a Saturday at noon in August.  Over 700 people participated in the race. The winner was Steve Kenyon from England.  “It’s kinda crazy that the race took place at noon in August considering how hot it is at that time,” Younger said.

     Since then, the race has evolved from an event for the elite and serious runners to something much bigger.   In 1985, the race, then known as the Crim Road Race, got its designation to be a nonprofit organization because of its donations to the Special Olympics.  In 1992, the Crim Road Race added the 8K and 5K to its events and therefore changed its name to the Crim Festival of Races.

     “This was to encourage people to be active and get out and participate regardless of if they were ready to run 10 miles,” Younger said.

     Shortly afterwards, the Crim introduced its adult training program to train people to get ready for the Festival of Races.  In the program, runners and walkers are placed in groups based on ability and interests.  The group meets every Tuesday and the program is 15 weeks long.  Younger said people who train together continue to run or walk together year round.  “It’s the largest training program organized by a race for a race,” he said.

     In 2001, the Crim Fit Youth Program was launched by Crim to provide physical activity and nutrition education to students in Genesee County.  Then, in 2005, due to disturbing statistics concerning the state of Michigan’s obesity rates, a group of concerned individuals established the Crim Fitness Foundation.

  “Our mission is to cultivate health and wellness as a family value in Genesee County.  Our vision is to make physical activity and health available to everyone through events, activities and the policy advocacy we do,” said Theresa Roach, Communications & Outreach Manager for the Crim Fitness Foundation.

     In addition, in 2007, the Crim Fitness Foundation organized SAGE, Safe and Active Genesee County for Everyone.  The role of SAGE is to help remove environmental barriers for residents to being able to go out and actively enjoy the neighborhoods and community.

     So, the Health Plus Crim Festival of Races has become a community event.  Bobby Crim, who settled in Lansing after his political career, still runs in the Crim each year.  He is very generous with his prosperity when he comes and has four generations of family members who participate in the race with him.  “It was neat when Bobby realized that though the race was named after him it was an event the community had taken ownership of.  So, he was willing and comfortable to let the community kind of take it over,” Younger said.

     So far this year, there are over 7,000 people pre-registered for the Health Plus Crim Festival of Races.  Younger anticipates 15,000 in all the races.  Julius Kogo from Kenya is the current and longest standing 10 Mile Crim champion.  He won the last four Crim races in a row.  Race goers are anticipating if he will earn the $5,000 1st prize this year.  If he breaks the current record held by Joseph Kamau, also from Kenya, of 45 minutes and 43 seconds, he will earn an additional purse of about $2,000.  That record was set in 1996.  The current female record is held by Kerry Barnett of Saline, Michigan.  She completed the 10 Mile race in 51 minutes and 5 seconds.

     The Health Plus Crim Festival of Races appeals to all ages.  The oldest person registered is in his 90s, will be participating in the 5K and has been participating in the Crim for several consecutive years.  The youngest participants are less than a year old.  Their parents carry them through for the Teddy Bear Trot.  “It’s really cute and a lot of fun to watch that,” Younger said.

     Among the Crim Fitness Foundation’s current projects are education in the classroom on gardening, healthy food, mindfulness and physical activity.  The organization also works on policy to get infrastructure in place so people can run, walk or bike in their neighborhoods.  “The Community Education Initiative is the biggest and newest part of what Crim is doing in the community,” Younger said.  “It is a partnership with the Flint Community Schools, C.S. Mott Foundation and several other organizations in the area to make the schools an asset to the communities again.  “We want to increase health and physical activity, decrease absenteeism and increase graduation rates,” Younger said.  “We love partnering with other organizations,” he added.

     In the future, the Crim Fitness Foundation hopes to continue to impact other communities.  Other organizations have taken notice to what the foundation is doing and requesting insight on how they can grow their programming.  Like the Crim Fitness Foundation, these organizations have had a successful race but believe they can use their good brand, name and connections for the greater good of the community.  “What’s neat about what we’re doing is people are noticing it and catching on in different places across the county.  A big part of our vision goes beyond Genesee County to help other communities do the same thing we’re doing,” Younger said.

     Although Younger said the Crim Fitness Foundation only advertises the Health Plus Crim Festival of Races locally,  because of the Crim’s reputation and word of mouth advertising the number of participants from the community, nationally and internationally each year continues to grow.  Since next year is the 40th anniversary of the Crim,  Younger expects the number of participants to be greatly multiplied.  He said the number of registrants increases every year on the 5s and 10s.

     Younger said he is also pleased with the increasing diversity of the race.  He said in the past, there were fewer female participants.  Now, the race is about 60% female and 40% male, which is in line with the national running trend.  “Running used to be a bunch of White dudes out there and it’s really changed.  It’s reflecting how the demographics of running are changing.  There are more and more women and more and more minorities.  What I’m excited about is how that’s going to continue to evolve,” he said.

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