CULLMAN — Twenty years ago, it was the mission of the Cullman Parks and Recreation Department to spice up the typical 5K run. They borrowed an idea from a marathon in Alaska, where the runners compete at midnight because it’s still light outside. They kept the midnight part of the idea and thought running in the middle of the night might be a fun, new way to participate.
So now, with the 20th annual Eva Bank Midnight Run 5K on Aug. 10, there are more than 800 people who enjoy running at midnight every year on the second Friday in August.
“This is something that’s very unique about Cullman,” said Waid Haribson, the Parks and Rec marketing director. “I think a lot of people who are not runners and who are not typically the competitive running type want to come out and run around the streets at midnight.”
The attendance continues to rise each and every year. While there was a record 800 runners last year, Harbison said he’s hoping for a turnout ranging from 900-1,000 this time around.
Nearly 250 runners have registered so far, which is about half of the number who usually pre-register. The rest will do so the night of the event.
The age range of these runners can be anywhere from 4 to the late 80s.
In addition to having so many runners, there are about 30-50 staff members from the Parks and Rec Department, Aquatic Center and Gymnastics Cheer Academy who help out.
“We have to have people to register all of our runners that come in, we need people to hand out giftbags to pre-registered runners, and we have to have people basically at every corner or every turn on the course,” Harbison said. “Even if they’re just going straight, for safety issues, we do have staff.”
With the crowd of runners, the hardest part to accomodate is the starting line. Harbison said they usually ask people to follow the courtesy rule.
“We do ask faster runners go to the front and for people who are recreationally running or maybe walking to stay in the back because it can get a little chaotic starting,” he said.
Because the race is in its 20th year, Eva Bank wanted to kick it up a little bit and make the event even more special. The bank has been able to put more time and money into this run.
“We’re going to have some unique and interesting door prizes,” Harbison said. “They want it to be kind of memorable. The door prizes are a surprise. In the past, we’ve given away 42-inch flat screen TVs, iPads, things like that, just for a reference people should keep in mind. We might reuse some of those.”
Another difference this year involves a switch from live-band entertainment to a deejay. Harbison said the volume of the live entertainment was harder to control, so they decided to try something new.
“If we need to make an announcement or something were to come up, it’s hard to interrupt a live band, so with the deejay, we have some more flexibility if something were to come up,” he said.
Harbison said the longest anyone usually takes to run the 5K is an hour, for those who like to walk the course. For the runners who take the 5K more seriously, running at night can sometimes help their times and hurt others.
“I’ve seen it both ways,” he said. “I’ve seen people who are more accustomed to running in the day and like it a little bit hotter and then the people that train and run at night, so that’s when they’re more comfortable.”
All runners will be required to wear a glow necklace or bracelet to stand out in the dark.
“We typically do the glow necklace, which can go around their necks, but some of the more serious runners will wrap it around their ankle or shoe to get it out of their way,” Harbison said.
The course was recently re-certified by the USATF, so it’ll be good to use for the next 10 years. The race will start at the Civic Center on 5th Street, continue on 4th Avenue towards Office Max, make a right toward the Aquatic Center, head onto Main Street and then come back to the Civic Center.
Entry forms are now available at the Cullman Civic Center, Eva Bank locations and at www.cullmanrecreation.org or at www.active.com. Registration before Aug. 8 is $20 and afterward is $25. Race-day registration will be at the Cullman Civic Center from 10-11:45 p.m.
For more information, contact the Cullman City Parks and Recreation Department at 256-734-9157.
% Laura Owens can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.