Flint, MI — The sun had barely risen over Saginaw Street as thousands of runners, joggers and walkers crossed the start line for Flint’s historic Crim Festival of Races.
Moments before, contestants for the 10-mile race congregated at the starting point. Some jogged in place while others stretched or talked to those around them. Despite the lack of sun, humidity hung heavy in the air, clinging to foreheads and drawing out sweat from even the fittest and most seasoned runners.
As soon as the announcer yelled, “Go!” The race was on. For the next half hour or so, a steady stream of racers made their way down Saginaw and onto 5th Avenue.
Two friends from Grand Rapids, Mich. Zachary Ornelas and Andrew Wittland were quick to claim their spot just a few feet away from the start line.
“This is my third time’s, it’s a legendary race going back to the ’80s, you know, we’ve had Olympians run it, so I just want to test my time against them,” Ornelas said.
Wittland, shared a similar sentiment, saying “I’m looking to break my personal record, this is my first race in a while so I’m looking forward to it.”
Fifty minutes 53 seconds and 10 miles later, Ornelas would be the first to cross the finishing line, earning him a seat at the proverbial table with the other 43 Crim champions.
Wittland, just a few minutes behind his friend, finished in 7th place with a time of 56:14.
Just up the road, on the corner of University Avenue and Martin Luther King Avenue, a mother and son stood on the sidewalk looking at the runners go by. The two had on race bibs, they were biding their time until the 5-mile race began.
Lisa Iordanou, a Flint native now living in Linden came out with her 12-year-old son Alex Iordanou. The two had originally planned to run the 10-mile race but due to the weather which by then had already gotten more humid, hot and sunny, they opted last second for the half marathon option.
Despite this, the Iordanous were still eager to run.
“I feel like the Crim is the best of Flint … I love coming down here and seeing the city so vibrant. Throughout the whole course, there are people cheering you on. It’s good for you, it’s good for Flint, I love it,” Lisa said.
This would be Lisa’s 5th time running the Crim and Alex’s second.
Due to COVID-19, the Crim Fitness Foundation opted to cap the number of runners to 8,500, a far cry from the race’s usual 50-70,000 attendees.
Undeterred by this, volunteers, racers and bystanders brought the energy to match a crowd 10 times their size.
Shirley Johnson, a volunteer of 15 years for the race filled cups with water for racers as they passed by. She moved quickly, as every time she filled a cup, two more were taken away by runners passing through.
Two more volunteers stood next to her, trying to keep up with the pace at which cups were being picked up.
“We know the runners need water, they need to be hydrated and we are so proud to be helping … Our organization, The Links, has been manning a water station at the Crim for over 25 years. Knowing we’re helping people stay safe and hydrated during the race feels good. I’m happy to do it,” Johnson said.
At the finish line, hundreds of onlookers cheered as racers began to trickle in. At first, a lone runner would come running through every 20 seconds or so. Soon, participants started arriving in waves.
They were immediately greeted by volunteers with damp towels and medals, a tent filled with water, protein shakes, granola bars and bananas, and a set of showerheads hung on light post for racers in need of a quick cool-off.
By 11 a.m. all racers had crossed the finish line. Downtown Flint which hours before had been packed with people, was back to its normal self.
To see results from the Crim Festival of Races, you can visit the Crim Fitness Foundation Website here.
Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...
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