Run, Don’t Walk, to Your Nearest Irish Whiskey Race
By Kathy Feist
It was only a few years ago at the first Whiskey Run when Brad Ziegler took a photo of each runner crossing the finish line, cut the timing chips off their shoelaces and pointed them toward the water bottles. There were only 100 runners then.
Now in its fourth year, the Whiskey Run 5K is expected to draw over 600 runners to kick off Martin City’s Irishpalooza celebration on March 13. Runners, and walkers, receive a shirt, glass mug and a free breakfast from RC’s following the race. The winners will get an opportunity to ride in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The running event is one of many—hundreds actually—organized by the KC Running Company in Martin City. Participants will meet in front of its headquarters at 135th and Oak streets, prior to the 8:30 am run.
KC Running Company
KC Running Company (KCRC) was founded by Troy Fitzgerald in 2008 just as the economy was crashing and charity runs were growing. Having organized 5K races as part of his job at the American Arthritis Foundation, Fitzgerald began organizing them in his spare time and then, by 2009, full time. Ziegler, a protégé at the Arthritis Foundation, eventually joined him as Chief Operating Officer. Today the two, along with six employees and roughly 40 volunteers, manage over a hundred races in the Midwest region, including Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The organization, hidden in a building disguised as Myautosource.com, (“We’re going to change that,” Ziegler says), started off in an office space at Ranch Mart, 95th and Mission, in Leawood. Two years ago they moved to Martin City where they have more space for materials and vehicles.
Running a Running Company
Ziegler says they like the diverse community of Martin City. “Everyone is kind enough to tolerate a ‘weird’ business like ours,” he remarks. “Nobody blinks.”
KCRC is not weird as much as it is unique among running organizations. KCRC is hired by non-profits to organize runs, such as the Whiskey Run which is being put on by the Martin City Business and Community Association. But they also conduct their own signature races, such as Rock the Parkway, the Glow Run, and Corporate Challenge. Here, they select charity partners for their races.
KCRC also has a running club, or “team,” that participate in regular “groupie” runs. These are free 4-mile runs around the Martin City neighborhood. Any level of participation is welcome. An upcoming one, the Leap Day Groupie Run, will be February 29 and will include prize discounts and giveaways. The post-run always winds up at the Martin City Brewing Company.
Recently KCRC took an added step and opened two stores, one in Leawood and the other in Lee’s Summit. Both sell running apparel and shoes. According to Ziegler, they are the only running stores in Kansas City that also specialize in sports medicine products, employing a physical therapist and athletic trainer to help an injured runner be fitted for the proper product.
Both stores also provide training programs for runners who are just getting started as well as those trying to improve their speed. They meet twice a week.
Races Aren’t Just for Racers Anymore
Ziegler points out that over time races have become a family event for participants at all skill levels and ages. “Most are not trying to win,” he says. “It’s the experience of the race.”
All finishers receive medals. The uniquely designed medals put out by races are collectibles and are part of the lure for participants.
Which is why businesses like KCRC have become so essential to a successful fundraising race. Anymore runners and walkers expect in the medal, a t-shirt, a timing chip, photo, instant posted statistics, pre- and post-run beverages and snacks, hydrating stations throughout the course, and a safe route void of traffic. It is becoming increasingly difficult to for a charity to conduct a successful running event without getting some outside help.
KCRC helps the charity with anything from simply tracking the finishers to setting up a race day course to doing it all including promoting the event among their 120,000 followers and involving hundreds of volunteers. This way, the charity can simply focus on their cause, says Ziegler.
Because of their track record, KCRC expects the Whiskey Run to be a lot of fun for participants. The only thing that could stop the race is lightening or ice, says Ziegler.
“We are hoping for a beautiful, sunny day,” he says. “It’s the only thing we don’t have control over.”
For more information on the Whiskey Run, visit whiskeyrun5k.com or pick up an entry form at the Leawood store, 4760 E. 135th St, or at the Lee’s Summit store, 1555 NE Douglass St.