4 Things You Should Know About the "Crazy 8" Race in Tennessee
Every year, the town of Kingsport, Tennessee hosts an 8km race called the Crazy 8. Thousands of people from all over the country - and the world - arrive to compete.
When we arrived, the sun was still high in the sky and the air was sticky with humidity. The stadium was setting up smaller races for the early evening, so that runners such as the Little 8s - children of various ages - and the Special 8s could compete in 400m and 600m dashes. We signed up and received a runner number, a few snacks, and a Crazy 8 shirt - one of the traditional competing rewards of the event.
To enter the race, it's $25, or $30 if you sign up on the day. Registration closes an hour and a half before the race begins. The Crazy 8 shirt that the runners get is like a badge of honour, and you receive it just for competing. It's a different colour every year, and some people aim to collect them as they compete yearly.
After the sun went down, the big full moon rose in a gorgeous, bright orange. It had been hot and humid in the daytime but now the temperature was mild (around 80 degrees Fahrenheit/27 degrees Celsius) and there was a small breeze - it was the perfect running weather. People were even wondering if it might be record breaking weather.
Setting up the race
The stadium was alive with excited runners, skipping children and smiling supporters, holding banners, stretching and doing warm-up jogs around the field. The race was due to start at 9:58pm, so at around 9:30pm everyone headed to the main roads where the race was due to begin.
A group of singers sang the American national anthem, and the race began at the sound of a siren. It was wild - thousands of people jogged, ran or sprinted on the same roads at the same time whilst upbeat dance music blasted out of the speakers. The race had begun. It was exhilarating to watch.
Records and finishing times
The world record still stands from runner Peter Githuka from Kenya, who finished the 8k in 22 minutes and 3 seconds in 1996. The women's record is 24 minutes and 28 seconds, set by Moroccan Asmae Leghzaoui in 2002. The African competitors take it away every year with long strides and fantastic stamina - they were thrilling to see. If the winner breaks the world record, the prize is $10,008, as well as having their name put down in history.
This year, Kenyan Simon Ndirangu crossed the finish line at 22 minutes and 29 seconds, becoming a two-time winner of the race and taking home the $5000 winner's cash prize. Susan Jerotich was the first woman to finish the race at 26 minutes and 46 seconds, the fastest time in four years. Following them were the faster runners, some smiling, some sprinting, some crying, some puking. All were sweating, all were tired, all were thrilled at crossing the finish line and earning their medal. Some people ran pushing strollers, some ran hand-in-hand with their partners - one man carried his giggling little girl on his shoulders; I've never seen a child so excited and happy.
Crazy 8 pacers ran in the race so that runners could keep an eye on their speed - 6 minute mile runners, up to 12 minute mile runners jogged with the competitors, holding up signs displaying the pace time, so that runners had an idea of how fast they were going. This was an excellent idea for people to know their pace - running in a race surrounded by a crowd is completely different to running alone in peace, and it would get confusing if it wasn't for the pacers.
Have you ever ran in the Crazy 8?
Cheering on your loved ones
Everyone cheered for their relatives and friends - we kept an eye out for our four guys, Gary Davis, Ronnie Archuleta, Leo Roybal and Jeremy Salazar. Jeremy was fastest, and finished at around 40 minutes. It was extremely cool to see them jogging towards the finish line, panting with fatigue and grinning as they heard us cheer them on.
Watching the race made me want to join in next year - maybe that's how everybody feels when they see their loved ones staggering across the finish line, tired and smiling, to applause and praise for their hard work. The Crazy 8 staff were waiting at the end with free bananas and water for the exhausted competitors, congratulating everyone on a job well done.
More details about the race itself, such as types of competitors and prizes, can be found on the We Run Events website.
The Crazy 8 brings people together in a healthy, friendly, sociable way, where you can compete amongst beginners and athletes, from young children up to the elderly, receiving your shirt and your medal even if you don't do that well. In the Crazy 8, it's finishing that counts, and you'll be cheered and congratulated no matter how well you do. It was a great event that made me want to train harder, improve my own running, and try to compete in next year's Crazy 8 race.