Jennifer Johnson has begun every Independence Day celebration for the past 19 years by running in a Grand Forks YMCA Firecracker race, and she wasn’t going to let a downpour wash out her streak.
The Larimore, N.D., runner, was one of about 100 men, women and youth who ran the Saturday, July 4, Firecracker 5 race along the Greenway, despite a few rumbles of thunder at the beginning and heavy rain throughout the event.
The YMCA has sponsored Firecracker races on July 4 for about 25 years. Proceeds from the race are used for youth who need financial assistance for YMCA memberships and programs.
Patti McEnroe, YMCA Firecracker race coordinator, considered canceling the race, which already had been postponed from 8 to 9 a.m., but decided against it after consulting with Johnson and other runners.
“Everybody was rarin’ to go,” McEnroe said.
About 130 signed up for the 5K, McEnroe said. Registration was limited to 150 people. The YMCA typically also sponsors a Firecracker 10K, but decided not to host it this year. McEnroe had planned to start the 5K race in waves of 20 runners, each, in a zigzag formation to ensure social distancing. However, after it rained and some runners opted not to participate, the remaining runners spread apart and started in one group.
It didn’t surprise McEnroe that the runners didn’t want to cancel the race.
“I think we had the more serious runners out there who will run through anything," McEnroe said. “I think they were going to run, whether we went on with the race or not. They would have gone anyway.”
Johnson, 60, was one of the avid runners to whom McEnroe referred.
“I didn’t want to break my streak,” Johnson said. “I drove 40 miles to run a 5K in the rain.”
Johnson for the first several years ran the YMCA Firecracker half marathon. During one of those races, it also rained, she recalled.
“It was a drizzle the whole time,” said Johnson, who trains year-round on the gravel roads near her farm home north of Larimore, N.D., and on the trails at Turtle River State Park. She is used to running in all kinds of North Dakota weather.
“I’m not a fair weather runner,” Johnson said. “I’ve been out in every kind of condition. In the summer, I like days like today; that’s preferable to 70 degrees and sunny.
“It’s refreshing. It’s fun,” she said.
More important, the race, which begins with runners' hands over their hearts as the National Anthem is sung, and with several runners dressed in patriotic red, white and blue racing shirts and shorts, is a July 4 tradition for Johnson, she said.
“It’s a cool way to start out the holiday. It just wouldn't be the Fourth of July without the race,” Johnson said.
Tim Dunham, of Grand Forks, was the first to cross the Firecracker 5K finish line with a time of 15:56:85.
The 2020 YMCA Firecracker 5K isn’t one McEnroe and the race organizer crew soon will forget.
“After we were all done, we kind of looked at each other and said: ‘That was the most memorable Firecracker we had. We were happy we pulled it off. It seemed like everybody was so invigorated,’” McEnroe said.
Here is a link to the 5K race results: https://bit.ly/2020YMCAFirecracker