Deep field expected for Crazy 8s 8K Run

Pat Kenney • Jul 14, 2017 at 7:36 PM

KINGSPORT — One of the largest and deepest fields of world class runners will toe the line for the start of Saturday night’s Indian Path Medical Center and Niswonger Children’s Hospital Crazy 8s 8K Run at 8:58 p.m.

The race, which starts on Fort Henry Drive in front of J. Fred Johnson Stadium, will feature 40 elite runners all vying for the Teleperformance $5,000 Dash For The Gold first-place prize.

Additionally, the Regional Eye Center’s $10,008 World Record Bonus will be paid out if a runner breaks the existing 8K world record time of 22:01.03, set by Kenyan Stephen Sambu in 2014. That broke the previous mark of 22:02.03, set by Peter Githuka from Kenya in the 1996 Crazy 8s 8K.

Defending champion Yitayal Atanfu returns to lead the assault on the world record. Also in the field are last year’s runner-up Isaac Mwangi from Kenya and third-place finisher Teshome Mekonen of Ethiopia.

Seven of the top 10 finishers from last Sunday's prestigious Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N.Y., will be on hand for the Crazy 8s 8K. Among them are the Boilermaker winner Silas Kipruto, runner-up Mekonen and third-place finisher Tsegay Tuemay.

“The Boilermaker is one of the top races in the works and is always a good measuring stick for us,” said Crazy 8s 8K race director Hank Brown. “For the top three and seven of  the top 10 to come to Kingsport is pretty exciting.”

Brown thinks another runner to keep an eye on is Kenyan John Wanjiku. Only 21, he has already won the Crescent City Classic 10K twice and the Azalea Trail 10K once.

“If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be Kipruto right now,” added Brown. “But only by a slight margin. We could see three or four guys enter the stadium about the same time. That would be exciting.”

While breaking the world record is always in the back of everyone’s mind, the Crazy 8s 8K still comes down to simple racing.

“We may not have a big superstar in the race, but we do have five or six guys who regularly win wherever they go,” said Brown. “What we all hope for is that the lead group pushes the pace and one of them has a Githuka type of night and finishes on world record pace.”

While there will surely be fireworks among the elite runners, there is always the thrill of entering and finishing in the brightly lit J. Fred Johnson Stadium for the rest of the runners in the field.

“There are not many finishes like the one we have at J. Fred,” said Brown. "It's pretty special. Even the elite runners say they feel the electricity when they enter the stadium for that final push. It’s something else.”

The 8K run will be preceded by the Almost Crazy 3K Run/Walk, which starts at 7:58 p.m. and is presented by Eastman Credit Union and Wellmont CVA.