SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Race organizers for Saratoga’s popular four-mile Firecracker 4 road race on July 4 expect to crest the 4,000 runner mark this year, as the race known for supporting active community causes holds its ninth annual competition.
“The growth of this race and the numerous businesses and individuals who support it through their running, appearances in our vendor village, and sponsorships demonstrate the importance of healthy lifestyles and running solidarity here in Saratoga Springs,” notes race co-director Bob Vanderminden.
“Fleet Feet Sports, locally-owned running shops in Malta and Albany, has returned this year as the race’s Presenting Sponsor, because they share our passion for wellness and building stronger communities through running. We welcome additional sponsors to support us with cash or in-kind donations, or by purchasing race registrations to distribute to their employees,” said race co-director Peter Goutos.
As part of the lead-up to the race, Firecracker 4 organizers, Fleet Feet Sports, and ASICS have joined together to support the Galway family of ultra-marathoner Shaun Evans, who with his wife and their two young boys will run more than 3,000 miles across the USA this summer, traveling east from Seattle back to New York in a journey they call the “Power2Push.” Starting July 4th, Shaun Evans will push his 9-year-old son Shamus, whose cerebral palsy limits the use of his legs, in a special running chariot.
Speaking about his decision to sponsor the trip, Charles Woodruff, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Malta and Albany, notes, “In the running community, we love stories that inspire runners of all abilities to run farther, race faster, or train harder. We are excited to support the Evans family as they pursue their dream of sharing the thrill of mobility with others. We are outfitting Shaun and his family in ASICS gear because their dream aligns with the current ASICS inspirational theme: ‘It’s a big world. Go run it.’ ”
FC4, Inc., the non-profit organization that manages the race, will donate proceeds from the event to several organizations this year:
• Saratoga Camp Abilities program, a Saratoga Springs Lions Club sports camp for blind/visually impaired youth
• Veterans Business Council of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, facilitating opportunities for Saratoga County veterans
• Saratoga Regional YMCA West Avenue facility expansion
• Saratoga Greenbelt Trail, an initiative seeking to connect trails around Saratoga Springs into a 9-mile loop for multiple recreational uses
• Saratoga Springs High School Running Programs (cross-country/track & field), offering competitive opportunities open to all abilities
• Power2Push Cross-USA Run, supporting Ainsley's Angels and promoting inclusion and active lifestyles for children with disabilities
“It’s very important to us to help move the wellness and fitness movement ahead in our region,” states Goutos. “We give the proceeds of this race to organizations that are forward-thinking and supportive of athletes of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. We also want to help build infrastructure here that will be used for many generations to come.”
Video highlights of last year’s race, from a segment of the nationally-watched RUNNING show on FOX regional networks, are viewable at Firecracker4.com on the Photos/Videos page.
SPECIAL FEATURES OF 2015 RACE
The 2015 event includes these special features:
• NEW: Three largest teams of runners in the “Run Your Colors” program will win $1,000, $500, or $250 donations to the charities of their choice
• NEW: Expanded runners villages for school teams, USATF Teams, and military/veterans teams to set up pop-up tents where they can gather before and after the race
• NEW: Food-raiser for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, whereby runners and spectators are invited to donate shelf-stable food at Fleet Feet Sports stores and at the race registration/packet pick-up area
• NEW: Announcement of “It’s a big world. Go run it.” travel prize winner to receive two round-trip airfares (maximum value $1,500) courtesy of Asics/Fleet Feet Sports, enabling travel for a runner and companion to attend a dream running event
• The first 4,000 registered runners will receive an Asics “Ready Set” textured mesh running shirt, courtesy of Asics and Fleet Feet Sports
• Over 20 bands and musical venues along the race course, with the local modern country band Grit n Whisky at the finish line
• $6,000 in monetary prizes to the top individual and team finishers and 174 award categories and prizes for runners of all ages
• Special recognition of Military and Public Safety (Police/Fire/EMS) competitors including team competitions
• Saratoga Stryders Grand Prix event, USATF Adirondack 4 Mile Grand Prix Event and USATF Team Championship Race
“As of the first week of June, twenty-two teams have already registered for the 2015 Run Your Colors event. It’s simple to win: gather your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers and be the group with the most registered runners,” Goutos explained. “In addition to the prize money for charity, the winning team has a nice story to share about giving back. Last year, the Rock Your Fitness team out of Malta awarded its $1,000 winnings to the Pat Tillman Foundation, which supports military veteran scholars.”
“Over the past nine years, this race has helped to define a Saratoga July 4th tradition. We are excited this year to make the race more inclusive and inviting to local military veterans,” notes Vanderminden.
FREE TRAINING RUNS HOSTED BY FLEET FEET SPORTS & ASICS
The race’s presenting sponsor Fleet Feet Sports and its vendor partner Asics will host free training runs leading up to the race to help runners prepare. These sessions are open to all ability levels. Training runs will leave from Fleet Feet Sports two stores in Albany (155 Wolf Road, at Metro Park Road) and Malta (37 Kendall Way, The Shops of Malta) on Wednesday evenings, June 17 and June 24, at 6 p.m. A rehearsal of the four-mile Firecracker course is set for Saturday morning, June 27 at 8 a.m. starting in front of the City Center in downtown Saratoga.
DISCOUNTED REGISTRATION UNTIL JULY 2
Online race registration costs $31 through July 2 and is now open at www.firecracker4.com and at Fleet Feet Sports in both Albany and Malta. Registration goes up to $35 at on-site registration, held at the Saratoga Springs City Center from 4 to 8 p.m. on July 3 and on the day of the race beginning at 7 a.m. Anyone registering the day of the race is urged to arrive to the Saratoga Springs City Center no later than 8:15 a.m. to ensure an on-time start.
RACE PARTICIPATION HAS EXPANDED OVER NINE YEARS
Event Co-Directors Peter Goutos and Bob Vanderminden Jr. have championed the race since its 2007 inception, when just 142 runners competed. That number has grown tremendously to roughly 3,600 in 2014. The runners range in ability from elite athletes, who complete the four miles in times under 20 minutes, to everyday families and individuals who are trying to become more healthy through running or walking.
RACE KICKS OFF SARATOGA’S JULY 4th FESTIVITIES
The ninth annual event kicks off Saratoga’s July Fourth celebration. The race starts at 9 a.m. at the Saratoga Springs City Center, traverses Broadway through the downtown shopping district, and then winds through the historic streets of Saratoga’s East Side neighborhood, where more than 20 bands play on street corners and local residents cheer and set up garden-hose misting stations to benefit the runners.
Runners and their families are treated to music and activities at the start/finish. A Vendor Village—with local businesses, not-for-profit groups, food tents, sports massage therapists, and other displays—is set up adjacent to the finish line. Through the generosity of the Saratoga Springs Department of Public Safety, runners finish this Independence Day race under a giant American flag hoisted by the Saratoga Springs and Maple Avenue Fire Departments.
The Firecracker 4 provides an impressive start to the All-American Celebration in Saratoga Springs (www.saratogajuly4th.com), which includes a grand parade directly after the race, barbeque and dessert festival, classic car show, live music, city tours, face painting and fireworks at dusk.
The Firecracker 4 race is managed by FC4, Inc., a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization committed to supporting healthy lifestyle choices. Event profits are donated each year to local not for profit organizations that embody these principles.