The flags are up and runners are pounding the pavement, practicing routes and testing shoes, as the City gears up for the 39th annual Cotton Row Run on Memorial Day with a 10k, 5k, and one-mile fun run in Downtown Huntsville. The annual event, honoring fallen military service members, is expected to draw about 4,000 runners to the Rocket City.
Cotton Row Run, by its varied nature of running options, brings a wide assortment of participants, each with differing goals: a professional win, personal best time, salute to a loved one, being with family and friends, or a bucket list quest to simply make it across the finish line.
Tyrone Harris, 38, is a Huntsville Hospital fitness trainer and professional runner, who ran track at Auburn in the late 1990s. Harris has run the Cotton Row about 10 times in the last 20 years. He travels all over the country to run in sanctioned events and says he prefers city road races for their interesting scenery, such as ones in and around Downtown Huntsville. He believes the best courses have a memorable feature.
“‘The Hill’ is a popular thing at the Cotton Row Run; it’s after about mile 3, and then it’s downhill from there,” said Harris. “It’s one of the most popular 10ks in the south. Be smart, stay hydrated and control your energy, because you want to have enough steam to get up the hill.”
David Collins, 60, and his wife Jeanie, 59, are members of the Panera Pounders (a We Run Huntsville group) and will be participating for their respective 9th and 8th consecutive years. This time, the race will be a family affair.
“Cotton Row is our favorite local race for sure. It’s the first race I ever ran,” Collins said. This year the Collins’ 11-week old grandson and 5-year-old granddaughter will take part in the fun run. Their son and daughter-in-law plan to do the 5k, while he and his wife participate in the 10k. Another generation of racers is on the move.
While Cotton Row Run has become a Huntsville tradition, it’s not the only popular race in town. Some of the other premier running events include the Rocket City Marathon, Mountain Mist, McKay Hollow Madness 25K, Bridge Street Half Marathon, and the Monte Sano 15k.
On the Run in Huntsville
The Huntsville running community has been one of the strongest in the southeast since the early 1970s. Many attribute the popularity to the City’s generous support, mostly free of charge, for runs on city streets.
“Without the backing of Parks and Recreation, Police, Fire & Rescue and others, we would not be able to offer the varied running events to the community,” said Eric Fritz,” Huntsville Track Club president. “We cannot thank the City of Huntsville enough for all they do. Their dedication to the running community has always been outstanding as was evident in the recent decision to turn an old golf course into a national class cross country course.”
Huntsville is undoubtedly a running city. Huntsville Police manage about 55 races each year, from 5k races to marathons. And that only covers races held on public streets.
Collins said he likes to participate in races 10ks and up, and locally enjoys The Rocket City Marathon, Cotton Row Run, and also the Tick Ridge Trek, held in Tennessee but conducted by the Team Rocket Tri-Club.
“You really won’t find a better running community than Huntsville,” Collins said.
Collins says he and his wife particularly enjoy the Downtown Pub Runs with We Run Huntsville, held each Wednesday night, with the beginning of their runs rotating between various downtown pubs. Fleet Feet Huntsville also sponsors Summer Pub Runs, held each Wednesday, May through August, featuring stops at various local breweries or beer tastings.
“It really introduces a lot of new people,” he said. “The most fun thing for us is that we get to hang out with a lot of ‘kids,’ 20-somethings, and we’ve really enjoyed that.”
Upcoming Running events
From the rustic running trails in Monte Sano State Park, to cruising the historic downtown pubs, to pacing the scenic banks of the Tennessee River and the pulsing streets of Research Park, Huntsville is a welcome place for runners.
Anytime a new race is added to the circuit, it generates notable enthusiasm, such as the upcoming opportunity to run on the same strip where commercial airplanes take off and land.
It’s the inaugural Huntsville International Airport Runway Run, Saturday, June, 23. The airport is shutting down the west runway so runners hoping to achieve their fastest time can run on a “pancake flat” course. The 5k event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Huntsville Airport.
Other upcoming summer running events include:
Saturday, June 2, 2018 – Eurocross 5k and 8k, at UAH Campus, conducted by the Huntsville Track Club
Saturday, June 9, 2018 – Alabama A&M 5k Cross Country Race, Frank Lewis Gymnasium, conducted by Huntsville Track Club
Saturday, July 7, 2018, – I Love America 5K – conducted by Whitesburg Christian Academy.
Also, look for numerous race opportunities in the fall such as the Monte Sano Road Races, Fleet Feet Monte Sano 15k, the 12th Annual Liz Hurley Ribbon Run, Huntsville Half Marathon, Hobbs Island 10k, and the Recover From the Holidays 50k.
Check out the website Mapmyrun.com to find countless running trails and courses mapped out to the mile in the Huntsville area.