If your resolution for 2013 is to run more, Pat Kenworthy is willing to go to bed early on New Year’s Eve to make sure you get off to a good start.
For more than a decade, Kenworthy has routinely missed West Coast rebroadcasts of the Times Square Ball drop to ensure he got plenty of rest in order to pull off the South Sound’s oldest New Year’s Day run.
Kenworthy is director of Fort Steilacoom Running Club’s annual Resolution Series. The races started in 1975 in Tacoma before eventually moving to Steilacoom where, Kenworthy says, they were enthusiastically welcomed by the community.
Each year on Jan. 1 as many as 500 runners show up at Steilacoom High to enter one of two races, five kilometers or five miles. The races start and finish on the school track and follow local streets.
The run starts at 9 a.m., but Kenworthy and a small army of volunteers are on the scene by 6:30 a.m. preparing everything from the course and late registration to the post-race chili feed.
He says the turnout is almost always good, regardless of the weather.
“Runners run no matter what,” Kenworthy said. “We’ve held the race in snow, rain, sleet and cold and we still get about 350 to 500 people.”
Celebrating its 39th year, the series is the region’s second-oldest set of races behind Tacoma’s Sound to Narrows. The Sound to Narrows turned 40 in June.
The Resolution Series includes four races, each five kilometers or five miles longer than the predecessor.
While the club, founded in the 1970s by Pierce College instructor Keith Foreman, hopes the series inspires people to run more, the series is also designed to fold neatly into a marathon training program.
By the time runners finish the 20-mile run on March 23 they should be just about ready the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.
Kenworthy says series participants with marathon aspirations usually plan to participate in the Yakima River Canyon Marathon (April 6) or the Eugene Marathon (April 28). But the series could just as easily be used to train for local spring races such as the May 5 Tacoma City Marathon or the May 19 Capital City Marathon.
Participants in the Resolution Series are not required to run all four races. They can enter any race for $25 ($20 if they’re a club member) or sign on for the series for $80 ($60 for club members.) To qualify for the series competition, you must register for the entire series before the first race, Kenworthy said.
Winner of the races and series receive a plaque.
Those running for the series title receive points corresponding with their finishing place. (One point for first, two for second, etc.) The runners’ worst finish is dropped and participants must run in at least three races to qualify for the series title. The male and female runners with the fewest points win the series.
While finishing the series might sound like a challenge, it’s not nearly the toughest part of the races.
“The hard part is finding enough volunteers,” Kenworthy said.
About 20-40 volunteers, depending on the length of the race, are needed to pull off the events. Each volunteer is given free entry into a future Fort Steilacoom Running Club race. The club also stages a Fourth of July run and a members-only Turkey Trot the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“We always need volunteers,” Kenworthy said. “So if you’re hurt and can’t run or just want to help out, it’s a fun time. ... And the chili is good.”
To assure it has enough help, the club makes donations to high school and college running programs in exchange for student athletes who help at the water stations.
The club also pays for Steilacoom police officers to monitor the course.
While in some ways the series is still old school (no chip timing yet, but Kenworthy hopes to add it for the 2014 race), the races have more amenities than other fun runs.
The club pays $1,000 per race for access to Steilacoom High, giving participants a warm place to register and stretch and enjoy their post-race chili. The school’s showers are also open after the race.
“It’s a nice warm environment,” Kenworthy said.
Kenworthy and the club are already looking forward to the 40th anniversary of the series in 2014. The club plans to offer race shirts, something it typically doesn’t do to keep costs down.
After that Kenworthy, who serves as director for all six of the club’s runs, hopes to retire and hand off planning duties to another club member.
Then, maybe, he’ll be able to start staying up to midnight on New Year’s Eve.Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via email@example.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.