Registration open for YMCA’s 39th annual Thanksgiving Day Run

NILES — Beginning Thanksgiving Day with a run or walk with family and friends has become a tradition for many in the Niles and Buchanan areas. Whether they are running to get ready for the big meal later, or enjoy beginning the holiday with friends and family outside, participants will be thankful the 39th annual Niles-Buchanan YMCA Thanksgiving Day Run has been given the green light this year.

The event will be hosted, as usual, on Thanksgiving. The first event begins at 7:30 a.m., Nov. 26.

While last year’s event broke records in the race’s past attendance, exceeding 2,700 people participating in the multiple events ranging from 1 mile to a 10K run, Jill Haboush, YMCA of Greater Michiana’s chief development officer and race director, said this year’s race will be a smaller affair.

The event came before Niles City Council members on Sept. 28 and was approved the same evening. Organizers have spoken with city officials and coordinated with the Niles public safety officer, Jim Millin, as they put together the event.

The event will feature its signature 10K run, 5K run/walk and 1 mile fun run. For all three events, the combined cap on participants for this year’s Thanksgiving Day tradition will be 1,500, due to limiting overcrowding due to COVID-19 concerns.

“I know that so many people, runners and walkers, and just so many people in the community are looking forward to the tradition and the event,” Haboush said. “There’s probably 430 people already registered.”

She said the number of registrations this year are more than double what they were at this time last year.

“With attendance being capped, and people knowing that, they know if they want to participate in the live event, they will need to register early,” Haboush said.

The event has been broken down into five separate heats, with what the run organizers are calling an open or rolling start. Each of the five heats has a 250-participant limit. The first heat begins at 7:30 a.m. for the 10K run, then at 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. heats of up to 250 participants will begin their 5K run/walk. The 1 mile fun run event participants, also capped at 250, may begin at any time between 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

“When people arrive during their dedicated time, they will just meet with their immediate family and friends and move from the parking lot and go straight to the startling, and go,” Haboush said. “Their timer will activate when they cross the start line, so there is no need to congregate.”

Haboush likened the open and rolling start to a self-serve type of race. She said the energy of gathering tightly at the starting line will be missed out on, but with COVID-19 precautions in place, this is the best way for YMCA staff to conduct the race.

The finish line will also be a bit different for participants in the events. The way the finish line is oriented, participants will have an exit path to follow, so they are not circling back into the start line. The set-up is to avoid unnecessary congregation of participants, Haboush said.

The organizers are also offering a virtual registration available for those who may not be able to travel back to the area this year.

“If [participants] are staying back home and not traveling back to Niles, we are still welcoming the participation and having a shirt shipped out to them for that,” Haboush said. “We are still trying to accommodate as many people as we can to keep that family tradition.”

Virtual runners will have until Dec. 6 to upload their run times into the Run Signup tracking app, and can run the distance wherever they happen to be.

Early registration is now open, and regular registration begins Nov. 9. Registration information can be found on the Niles-Buchanan YMCA’s website.

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