Happy 5K/10K gears up for October race

Participants in the 2018 Happy 5K/10K costume contest.

The fifth Happy 5K/10K race is planned for Sunday, Oct. 6. In the spirit of the race’s motto—“Come for the run, stay for the fun!”race  coordinators are enthusiastically working to increase participation, expand sponsorship and scholarship donations, and make the after-party even bigger.

The first Happy race, in 2015, comprised 400 runners. Each year since, the number of registrants has grown, with 600 participants in 2018. In a region that has ample 5K opportunities, that is “unusual growth,” according to coordinator Adam Fleischer, owner of The Wine Spot. “Each year we have more runners, more merchants, and more running teams,” Fleischer said. 

Runners give the event high praise. Kevin Sovacool of Lyndhurst said, “It’s such a fun race in a really great community. Everybody comes together.” Nick Becker of Cleveland Heights said he especially likes the community vibe. “Everyone on the block gets involved and cheers the racers on,” Becker said.

Members of North Coast Beer Runners—inspired by the legacy of Brennan’s Colony owner Jim Brennan, who was an ardent supporter of Cleveland Heights’ recreation leagues—proposed the race in 2014. They brought the idea to Fleischer during one of their after-run drinking-establishment sessions. Fleischer worked with city officials to think it through together. Thus was born a business-municipal collaboration in the form of a signature event that highlights what the runners, merchants and city officials all love about Cleveland Heights—great merchant districts, welcoming pubs and eateries, tree-lined streets, and diverse and friendly people.

It all benefits the very program that Jim Brennan cherished and supported for decades—youth opportunities within the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Sponsorship is key to the race, as all sponsorship dollars go directly to the city’s Youth Recreation Fund. “The fund helps offset the costs of recreational programming for families in need,” said Joe McRae, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Cleveland Heights. To date, the Happy 5K/10K has raised more than $22,000 for the  fund, ensuring sustainable access for years to come. The fund awards approximately 200 scholarships per year.

MotorCars Honda was the first official sponsor, with other merchants stepping up to participate as sponsors and in the creation of CLE Heights Cash, a coupon booklet valued at more than $300 that is given to every registered runner.

Ronald LaRue, owner of Heights Uptown Barbershop, has sponsored teams the past three years. “Our team is growing each year,” said LaRue, who said he likes hosting a team because it gives family and friends a chance to bond while doing something healthy. “I encourage everybody to walk and enjoy the weather.”

Since its beginning, the Happy 5K/10K has worked with Western Reserve Race Management, “a known entity for quality run experiences” according to Kelley Robinson, executive director of the Cedar Lee Special Improvement District. “They do a great job helping us to promote the run and making sure everything runs smoothly on race day,” she said.

A well-run race enables the coordinators to focus on the fun aspects—from the costume contest to the after-party.

Fleischer said he would love to see teams from all segments of the community—PTAs, street associations, student groups, businesses, and more. “To form a team, just e-mail us and we will add the team name as an option when people register,” Fleischer explained.

In addition to this year’s anticipated growth in participation, teams and sponsorships, Fleischer said he is excited to expand the after-party. For 2019, the plan is to take the post-race fun to a new level, with a block party that will last into the afternoon.

For more information about the race, visit www.westernreserveracing.com/events/cleveland-heights-happy-5k-and-10k/. To learn more about the city’s Youth Recreation Fund, visit https://chparks.com/154/Youth-Recreation-Fund. To start a Happy 5K/10K team, e-mail info@westernreserveracing.com.

Shari Nacson

Mostly a mom, Shari Nacson, is a freelance editor, social worker, and nonprofit consultant who makes her home in Cleveland Heights. More than anything, Nacson is inspired by kids and adults who build connection through kindness.

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Volume 12, Issue 6, Posted 9:40 AM, 06.03.2019