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Randy Wilson 8

Randy Wilson (left) speaks to runners at the July 4, 2011, Flagstaff Four on the Fourth trail race. 

In a town that loves to run, the Fourth of July is an especially athletic holiday. We feature not one, but two local races to start your festive day off right. Which one will you choose this year?

FLAGSTAFF FOUR ON THE FOURTH

With a calibrated start based on age and gender, this fun, four-mile race gives everyone a chance to win.

The race is free, with same-day registration between 6 and 6:45 a.m. at the Flagstaff Memorial Flagpole on Thorpe Road. The action begins at 7 a.m., when the first wave of runners (and walkers) takes off. They’ll follow the FUTS trail for two miles nearly to Cheshire Park before turning around to race back to the flagpole.

Each successive minute launches another wave until the official race clock starts at 7:15 for the “scratch” runners without a head start: males ages 18 to 29. Head starts are recalibrated each year based on race results, with the goal of giving each age/gender group an equal chance of winning.

This year’s race, the 11th, is being organized by Neil Weintraub, Jack Welch and Caroline Herrington, daughter of race founder Randy Wilson. Wilson, who died last July, started this traditional New England racing style to Flagstaff 11 years ago. The 2019 bib features a new design in Wilson’s memory.

“It’s an honor to carry on the tradition that meant so much to Randy,” Weintraub said. “When he asked me to assist in the inaugural run, I didn’t hesitate. We had the exact same vision for the run: free, family fun on the Fourth.”

If a four-mile run isn’t your thing, watch the race or volunteer to guard intersections where the urban trail crosses roads in the Coconino Estates subdivision. Bring a can of food to donate to the food bank, and start the holiday off right. For more information or to volunteer, call (928) 600-3685 and leave a message.

DOWNTOWN MILE

Heritage Square on Aspen Avenue is the launching point for this two-lap, one-mile run on the historic streets of downtown Flagstaff.

The Downtown Mile features elite competitive runners competing for prize purses, a masters division for ages 40 and up, and a citizens division generally for the younger crowd (though all ages and abilities are welcome). This year, wheelchair racers will join the citizens race. There’s also a half-miler for ages 10 and younger that draws a big crowd of little racers.

“All the kids get Bomb Pops at the finish line,” said Vince Sherry of Team Run Flagstaff, the race organizers. “It's one of my favorite things about the race.”

The Downtown Mile is fun to compete in no matter which group you enter, and fun to watch. The festive morning also includes a patriotic costume contest, age-group awards and raffle prizes, thanks to Under Armour, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors.

This year’s event has a new logo and a few other changes:

• Running a scoring clock on the pace car will allow the lead athletes and spectators to keep an eye on progress throughout the race.

• Every 400-meter split will be marked to help athletes pace themselves. A mile is longer than it sounds!

• A finish-line announcer will give athletes a shout-out by name over the PA system, entertaining the crowd and bringing race commentary to the next level.

Packet pickup and registration are July 3 at Run Flagstaff from 4 to 6 p.m., continuing at the Under Armour Pre Race Party at the Green Room from 6 to 8 p.m. A highlight of the pre-race party will be a panel discussion featuring pro athletes Stephanie Bruce, Rachel Schneider, Jess Tonn and Leah Rosenfeld. They are some of the nation’s fastest women, and they live and train right here in Flagstaff.

Presented by Women's Running magazine, the panel will be moderated by Erin Strout, senior editor at Women's Running and executive director of Team Run Flagstaff. The panel will delve into why American women's distance running talent is so deep, how it's making the sport more popular for all, what it's like to pursue running as a career and how our community can support local athletes heading into the 2020 Olympic year.

The Downtown Mile begins at 7 a.m. July 4 at Heritage Square. To sign up, go to www.teamrunflagstaff.com/downtown-mile. Volunteer to help at www.volunteersignup.org/BYMLK.

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Do you have a column, tip or idea for High Country Running? Run it over to coordinating editor Julie Hammonds at runner@juliehammonds.com, or tweet her @highcountry_run.

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