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Fun Fest's Crazy 8’s 8K gets new, flatter course

Tanner Cook • Feb 6, 2019 at 7:45 AM

KINGSPORT — Throughout the 30-year history of Fun Fest’s Crazy 8’s 8K Road Race, presented by Ballad Health and Niswonger Children’s Hospital, there have only been two courses.

That changes this summer when the “World’s Fastest 8K” boasts a new course for the first time since 2006. The course keeps some of the familiar checkpoints, such as the start line outside Dobyns-Bennett on Fort Henry Drive and the finish inside J. Fred Johnson Stadium. Runners also get to experience the new turf field being put down inside the stadium going into the final stretches of the race.

“We think the new course will run much better than the old one,” event co-director Hank Brown said. “Obviously, the old course was very good to us, but we felt like it was time for a change. In addition to being flatter, and hopefully faster, we think it’s much more spectator-friendly. We hope the people who live either along the course or close to it will come out and cheer for the runners.”

The main features taken out are the short, steep hill up Wilcox Drive onto Center Street and the long, gradual climb up Fort Henry Drive just over halfway through the race.

Fun Fest 2019 Chairman Colette George endorsed the change, “The Crazy 8s race is a Fun Fest event the entire family can participate in and we all look forward to including a new neighborhood on the race course.”

On the new course, runners continue to head straight on Eastman Road instead of turning right onto Pineola Avenue to go toward the first mile. Runners go one more street up to Redwood Drive and hit the 1-mile mark right before going around Borden Park.

Coming out of Borden Park, runners turn right onto Garden Drive and go onto Pineola in the other direction from the way the old course went and make a left onto Midland Drive to go back to the starting area. This is just past 2 miles.

The competitors again go on Fort Henry and Eastman Road but make a left onto Hermitage Drive toward Swannanoa Road. This is another completely new section of the course and has virtually no hills.

The runners then make a big loop incorporating Konnarock Road and Sherwood Drive before turning back onto Fort Henry for the closing stage.

In the past, some of the leading elite runners have come through the halfway point in under course record pace, but have been thwarted by the long climb up Fort Henry Drive. Now, there is no looming haul in the second half of the race and elite runners could have a realistic shot at breaking the 8K world record.

The world’s best was set last year at the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in Central Park when 18-year-old Rhonex Kipruto split 21:45, besting Stephen Sambu’s 22:01 split from two years prior at the same race.

Kipruto went on to win the under-20 world championship for 10,000 meters last year and has a 10K personal best of 26:46 on the road, the second-fastest ever.

Before Sambu and Kipruto shattered the record, Kenya’s Peter Githuka held the record from the 1996 edition of Crazy 8’s when it finished at the Greenacres Shopping Center on Eastman Road. Githuka’s time and the still-standing event record is 22:03.

The $10,008 world record bonus has gone unclaimed since Githuka’s record. Some have come close, but all have failed.

The Crazy 8’s 8K also has the distinction of holding the women’s world record: Asmae Leghzaoui’s time of 24:28 that the Moroccan runner set in 2002.

“Hank and I ran it a couple of weeks ago, and let me tell you, it’s awesome,” said event co-director Natalie Whitlock. “We think runners will be able to get into a nice pace early and be able to hang on to it the entire way.

“Hank wanted me to run it with him before making the final decision, and after we ran it, I told him that if we got the right guys in here,” Whitlock added, we’ll get the record back.”

The race is scheduled for July 13, starting at 8:58 p.m.

Online registration is open at werunevents.com and the cost is $25.