The starting line at his year’s 35th Annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Run/Walk could be a little more crowded but runners and walkers could find race conditions cooler to their liking because the start will included both runners and walkers at 8 a.m. Paul “Duke” Meyer (below) will be the honorary race starter and timing chips will once again be used for scoring. Run winners will receive specially-made awards like 2012 winner Jeremy Johnson, of Austin, and Mackenzie Dye, of New Castle, above, were presented by Madison Courier Publisher Jane Jacobs after that race. (Courier file photos by Mark Campbell)
The starting line at his year’s 35th Annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Run/Walk could be a little more crowded but runners and walkers could find race conditions cooler to their liking because the start will included both runners and walkers at 8 a.m. Paul “Duke” Meyer (below) will be the honorary race starter and timing chips will once again be used for scoring. Run winners will receive specially-made awards like 2012 winner Jeremy Johnson, of Austin, and Mackenzie Dye, of New Castle, above, were presented by Madison Courier Publisher Jane Jacobs after that race. (Courier file photos by Mark Campbell)
When the mercury closed in on 90 degrees with the humidity creeping to almost as high on the morning of last year's Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Run/Walk, organizers considered canceling the event for the safety of participants and the volunteer race workers.

It was a tough decision because runners and walkers look forward to and train for the event for months in advance and race preparations take even longer.

In the end, the heat index on race day came in just under an agreed upon threshold for cancellation and the event went on as scheduled. But organizers agreed that with the event facing more and more weather concerns in recent years a better solution needed to be found.

As a result, race organizers agreed to adopt a starting change some runners have sought for years by scheduling an earlier start for the event beginning this year.

"The reason we changed is because we had to find some way to beat the heat," said Jane Jacobs, publisher of The Madison Courier, sponsor of the event now in its 35th season.

Jacobs said this year's event will begin at 8 a.m. for both runners and walkers - a 30-minute earlier start time for runners than past Courier 10Ks - to allow all participants the best opportunity to complete the event under the most comfortable weather conditions.

Jacobs said a shift to an even earlier time was considered but to do so would have impacted the morning shift change at Madison State Hospital, where a good portion of the event is contested on the scenic and lightly traveled roadways of that complex.

"Due to their shift change we cannot start any earlier and we didn't want to change the course because that area offers a very nice run through there while limiting the impact the event has on other roadways in the city," Jacobs said.

One of the big concerns in adjusting the time was how to coordinate both events - the competitive run and the non-competitive walk - while starting at the same time. Jacobs said run/walk events are conducted simultaneously all the time in other communities and organizers feel certain that the change will present no problems.

One big reason for that is the event's switch to timing chips last year. Each runner and walker will attach a small lightweight timing chip to their shoe before the start and the chip will be used to track and time that participant regardless of when they finish or whether they are a runner or walker.

"It is really important for all runners and walkers to attach the timing chip to their shoe with the small zip-tie that will be included in each race packet," Jacobs said. "And at the end of the event it is very important that all runners and walkers enter the coral where we will recover the timing chips at the end of their run or walk. We're going to have a little bit larger area set aside for that this year."

Jacobs said the timing chips should allow fast, accurate compilation of results at the end of the event. In fact, final results should be ready within minutes after the last runner and walker cross the finish line.

As in past Courier 10K runs, awards will be presented to the top three finishers in each of the 13 age divisions - both men and women - as well as the top overall male and top overall female. Jacobs said organizers realize the awards ceremony is important to both runners and walkers - many runners have friends and family members in attendance who also walk the event - but that the simultaneous start time should still allow time for most walkers to finish the course before the award presentations begin.

Last year's overall winner was 18-year-old Jeremy Johnson of Austin, a freshman runner at Berea (Ky.) College. He ran the 6.2-mile course in 34:37 to finish 29 seconds ahead of runner-up Logan Wells, 19, of Scottsburg.

The top female runner in 2012 was Mackenzie Dye, 19, of New Castle. A sophomore cross country and track athlete at Hanover College, Dye ran a 40:17 while Chelsea Stephan, 19, of Madison, was the female runner-up in 40:56.

The honorary starter of the 2013 Courier 10K is a former educator and coach at Madison Consolidated High School and high school and college cross country and track and field official.

Honorary starter Paul "Duke" Meyer is well-known to the regional running world as a longtime official IHSAA and NCAA starter of cross country and track and field meets throughout Indiana. He is also one of the most dedicated volunteers and supporters of the Courier 10K and was among the original organizers leading up to the first race in 1979.

"He has a rich history in track and field and running and a rich history in this event," Jacobs said. "Duke has been on the race committee from day one and he is held in high regard. We wanted to honor him for his commitment over a number of years.

"Let me tell you, he is always the first one out on (race day), setting up the course and making sure everything is ready for the competitors," Jacobs added.

The Courier 10K, an official Madison Regatta event, is rooted in an era in which the Regatta was more of a race weekend than a week-long festival of local events

"It really started at a time when the Regatta wanted to expand events into the week and running was just coming into fashion so we started the run and the walk," Jacobs said. "A lot of people wanted us to make the walk competitive, too, but we've just never done that.

"The event was a way we could involve a lot of the community in the run and walk, as participants, as volunteers and even down to the T-shirt design," Jacobs noted. "We've always had a local person or artist design the T-shirts and part of that is to help the local art community to display their artwork and involve the community."

The 2013 commemorative T-shirt is designed by local artist Jane Vonderheide. The T-shirts will be included in each race packet of all pre-registered runners and walkers and while supplies last for participants registering on race day.

Registration forms for the 35th Annual Madison Courier Firecracker 10K Walk/Run are now available at The Madison Courier office, 310 West St., and through the newspaper's website at www.madisoncourier.com.

The event will take place at 8 a.m. EDT on Saturday, July 6, starting at Madison Consolidated High School on the hilltop and ending at Lytle Park in downtown Madison.

The cost for walkers is $10 by June 28 and then $15 up until time of walk and the cost for runners is $20 by June 28 and then $25 up until time of race. Check-in begins at 6:30 a.m. on race day and must be completed by 7:45 a.m.