5k Race for Swift Cantrell starts

Special for the Bright Side Newspapers: by Dr. Cris Eaton Welsh.

Cris, Steve, Isabelle, Dream DashWho would have even projected the impact that the Kennesaw Grand Prix series has had on our economy and our community. 20 races grossing nearly $500,000.  Over $220,000 raised for our  foundations and local charities the City of Kennesaw supports, 15,000 runners since 2011, 46,000 miles run since 2009 (more than two times around the earth), and fit citizens taking care of their health.  Keep moving is the motto.

In 2009 the first 5k race, The Great Locomotive Chase, was held in Kennesaw to benefit the Museum. This first race had 273 runners and raised nearly $5,000 for the Kennesaw Museum Foundation.   Despite the success of the first race, there was grumbling about the hilly course.  If future races were going to increase the number of runners the course had to be changed.  The following year,   Drobney, an avid runner and Ironman, designed a USAT&F certified “fast and flat” course that starts at Kennesaw First Baptist Church, winds its way through Swift-Cantrell Park and ends with a quarter mile downhill run in the middle of downtown Kennesaw.

This route became the standardized race course for what would eventually become the Kennesaw Grand Prix Series.  The concept was to put on a series of six races, in the city, by the city and to benefit the city. The driving force was first to get families and a community moving together and second to raise money for various city and non-profit organizations.

Since 2011 the Kennesaw Grand Prix Series has developed into the premier 5k race series in Cobb County and north Georgia.  The super flat and fast course is perfect for competitive runners seeking that PR or Peachtree qualifying time while the festival like atmosphere, great t-shirts, friendly volunteers and plentiful food and drink make the races perfect for families or the beginner runner/walker.

From the very beginning Councilwoman Welsh was insistent that no city dollars or resources be used to put on the Grand Prix Series. Each race would need to pay for and cover all of the expenses and labor associated with each event.

During the  first three years Welsh and Drobney volunteered their personal time, energy and efforts to put together a series that was sustainable and easy to replicate.  By 2013 the series was solvent enough to hire a part time race director to take over the work that they had been doing as volunteers for the prior years.

One mile runners hit the starting lineNow in the fourth year of the series and the sixth year of the races overall, this weekend’s Dream Dash marked the 20th race in the Kennesaw Grand Prix Series.  Approximately 600 runners participated.  This race benefits the Bill Thrash Teen Center in downtown Kennesaw.

Since 2011, the first year of the Grand Prix Series, over 750 runners have completed at least 4 of the 6 Grand Prix Series races.   For more information about all of the races and how to enter visit www.kennesawgrandprix.com.

Pictured at top – 5K runners in Swift Cantrell starting line. At left. Dr Cris Welsh, husband Steve and daughter Isabelle run the Dream Dash 5k, on June 14, 2014, at bottom right – Kilometer Kids start the one mile in the Swift Cantrell 2014 race.