As the sun rose higher in the sky, ending the chill of the morning, racers took off at 8 a.m. from First Baptist Church.
The course looped Swift-Cantrell Park before curving around on Main Street toward the inflatable arch at the finish line, where a digital timer ticked off the seconds.
Steve Bell, 41, was 13 seconds behind the leader. His time was half a minute faster than his 16:56 time last year.
Bell said the goal is always to win, but also to prove he still has what it takes to compete.
Bells said the temperature and weather is the biggest factor.
“It is about as good as it gets right now,” Bell said about storm clouds holding off through the morning’s activities.
Bell, a Kennesaw resident, trains at Legacy Park and runs hills in the area as part of a 40- to 60-mile-a-week routine with varied intensity.
Last year, Bell was the Kennesaw Grand Prix Series winner, which includes six races from May to December.
“It keeps you honest when you have a race every one or two months,” he said.
The first 50 finishers were treated to a VIP room, but most racers gathered in a sweaty crowd to drink water from paper cups and talk about the sun in their eyes or leaving their spouses “in the dust.”
Kate Brun was the overall female winner with a 20:46 time, but all women crossing the finish line received a carnation in honor of Mother’s Day weekend.
New to this year’s festivities was the Healthy Mom of the Year honor that was given to Tamie Clark, who knew she would be starting the 5K race but was surprised by the award.
The decision was based on Clark losing more than 100 pounds by walking the paths through Swift-Cantrell Park, as part of Fit City Kennesaw, a city-wide initiative launched in 2012.
The city program promotes running as a hobby for all ages, which was evident in the nine participants over 65 years old and 84 kids under 15 who ran during Saturday’s 5K.
Never too young to start
Through the Parks and Recreation Department, Kilometer Kids formed this year to help local kids set goals and track their progress. They have met twice a week over the last three months to do drills and run on a track.
Eleven-year-old Connor Heffron, who had a crossing time of 27:37, said he trains by running 3 miles in his neighborhood.
“I like being healthy,” Connor said. “The hardest part is to go up hills. The easiest is downhill. You run very fast.”
Taylor Riley, 10, said it was an early morning but she was focused for the 1-mile run that started at 7:30 a.m.
“We are just really getting started with the whole running thing,” Christie Riley said about signing up her daughter to do more outside activities.
The Swift-Cantrell Classic 5K was founded to raise money to improve the city park. A large group of volunteers organizes the race to support the Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation, which administers the master plan for the park.
R.J. Patel, president of Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation, said the 800 people registered this year will net $10,000.
But, Patel said, his objective is to make minor tweaks to keep the community’s interest in race day. This year was a focus on family involvement and giving children a great example of healthy living.
“You could just see those kids raring to go,” said Patel. “You give them a goal, and see them go.”