Sometimes when you are pleasantly surprised, it makes for some of the best memories.
A few months ago, a friend of mine talked me into going down to Galesburg for a half marathon. I had not been to the area in several years and the registration price was low, so I thought “why not?” and signed up.
The Run Galesburg Run has a half marathon, 5k and one mile. I had looked at previous years’ results and the race typically had about 500 runners between all the races, so I was not exactly expecting a big event, but more of a low-key, community run. We arrived on Saturday and the town was pretty quiet, so there was no reason to expect anything different the next day.
When we arrived at the start area on race morning, it was becoming apparent that I was wrong. The start line had a big, beautiful display. There were sponsors and tents all around the race site with music playing and plenty of excitement.
It was a hot and humid morning, which I think lead to a decrease in stress level for many of the runners, as thoughts of PRs and fast times were quickly put aside and replaced with thoughts of “just get through it and enjoy it.” Along the course – which was mostly out-and-back – everyone was smiling and waving to each other. The crowd support for the race was amazing. There very easily could have been at least one volunteer on the course for every half marathon runner (there were fewer than 200 runners in the half marathon) and all the volunteers and spectators brought a wealth of energy to course, which was very much needed and appreciated.
The post-race party was in a nice, intimate feeing area with plenty of food and conversation. Everyone was talking with each other and just having a good time. All the runners received vouchers for tokens and the tokens could be used towards food and drink purchases that could be used at for a number of different vendors. I ended up having two beef tacos, which really hit the spot.
The race also came with a great goodie bag, which had a tech shirt, drawstring bag, and a bottle of hot sauce.
Up here near the city, we would consider Galesburg “small town America” (which is partially true of a town of 32,000 residents) and expect things to be a little smaller because of that. The Run Galesburg Run, however, is a big-time production that a lot of larger races could really take a closer look at if they want to learn how to do things right. If you like to meet a bunch of friendly people that are excited to see you, head a couple hours southwest next year and give this race a chance.