Flint, MI—Endurance sports have been ingrained in Kenny Krell from a young age. Over the years, it’s brought him to races worldwide and across the country. Now, Krell is bringing that passion to the Crim Fitness Foundation as its new director of races and training. 

“It’s (endurance sports) been a part of me [since] my freshman year in high school, all the way to now and I have not stopped doing it,” Krell said of endurance training. “Barring anything ridiculous, I don’t think I would stop until I’m in the ground. It’s an everyday thing for me.” 

Kenny Krell participates in the Lavaman Triathlon in Hawaii. (Image courtesy of Kenny Krell)

Krell began his new role on April 17, 2023, overseeing the nonprofit’s signature racing events, along with training programs for runners and walkers. He is aiming to bring his experience from being an athlete, endurance coaching and running a sports event management company to fine-tune Crim’s work.

Among various races hosted by the foundation is the HAP Crim Festival of Races, commonly known as the Crim. The Crim is coming up on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26, and its lineup of events include the 10-mile, 5-mile, 5k and 1-mile races along with the Teddy Bear Trot.

Krell recalled running the Crim back in the 1980s when he was still in high school, and he’s hoping to restore the kind of standing that the Crim had back in those days. 

“The Crim, even way down in Wyandotte where I’m from …, that’s what everybody talked about, ‘Are you running the Crim? Are you running the Crim?,” he said. “That was the event and anybody who was a runner ran it back then. Part of the goal is to get that status back.” 

Lauren Holaly-Zembo, the Crim Fitness Foundation’s CEO, said she’s also hoping for the Crim’s participation to return to its pre-COVID-19 levels, and to enhance participants’ experience under the leadership of Krell and Liz Jones, the new associate director of races and training.

The Crim has drawn anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 participants post-COVID, while the numbers were upwards of 15,000 prior to the pandemic, Holaly-Zembo said. She added that turnouts for races have taken a hit nationwide, though the Crim’s dip in participation has fared better relative to patterns across the country. 

“The racing industry as a whole is down,” she said. “There’s just less runners and walkers. Races have really struggled through the pandemic, but the Crim has not seen as much of a drop as national trends … At the end of the day, it’s a beloved community race, so people continue to come out and support it and be a part of it.” 

A bystander films the starting line-up during the 45th annual Crim Festival of Races on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022 in downtown Flint. (Jenifer Veloso | Flint Beat)

This August, Holaly-Zembo noted that the Crim is going into its 46th year.

“It’s always been there for the community,” Holaly-Zembo said. “We’ve never gone away. So I think it’s just an important day of a community celebration. We look at it as a day to really just showcase and celebrate Flint. The course goes through lots of different neighborhoods. People are lining the course and they just come out and celebrate.” 

The history of the Crim dates back to the 197os. In August 1977, Bobby Crim, then the speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, and Lois Craig, his assistant at the time, launched what was then called the Bobby Crim 10 Mile Road Race to help fundraise for athletes of the Michigan Special Olympics, according to the Crim Fitness Foundation. 

Looking ahead, Holaly-Zembo said the foundation is also aiming to make the Crim more inclusive, and that goes for training for runners and walkers too. Getting the younger generation more involved is another goal as well, Krell added.

“It’s 2023 and you got to keep up with the trends,” he said.

In the meantime, Krell said as the Crim’s event director, he’s looking forward to making upgrades to the Crim this year, experiencing the festival on the ground and taking it all in.

“The best events are the ones that have that community foundation,” Krell said, “and this is all about the community.”

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...