I Love Forest Park Race is Everyone's Race

James and Conner Wolf, 4-year-old identical twins, jump and down with excitement. “What type of number is this?” Conner asks his dad looking down at his bib which is secured by safety pins on his yellow race shirt.

“What about my number?” echoes James who is trying to succumb his energy so his dad can pin his bib. 

“I’m excited for the obstacle course,” shouts James.

“Me too,” says Conner.

The two boys jump into Spider-Man poses, showing off their muscles in preparation for their obstacle course.

James and Conner are not alone in their pre-race day excitement, but it’s hard to match the enthusiasm of 4-year-olds.  

As the song “Gloria” plays from the loud speaker, a small group of runners dance near the starting line. “My daughter’s getting married in January, so we’re getting ourselves in shape,” says Judy Tyler.

“Judy made us do it,” says Jennifer Suther, the avid runner of the group, when asked why they signed up for the race. “I’m going to make them run.”

“I’m going to walk-slash-run,” says Daphne Ellis.  

“They’re going to run,” Suther confirms while shaking her head. 

The women met in a spin class and regularly workout together, though they don’t often run together. In true cheerleader fashion, Tyler claps her hands, “We are here; we are committed. Forest Park is a great place, and we love it.”

Mitch Hinrichsen and Chelsea Edwards stand quietly by themselves. This is their first 5K and a culmination of months of training. “I’m pretty nervous. I think it’s more of jitters, thinking am I going to do good? What if I don’t?” says Edwards who explains that she has exercise-induced asthma and always thought running a 5K was something she couldn’t do.  

Hinrichsen and Edwards trained for an end-of-summer race, so when they found the I Love Forest Park 5K, it was an obvious choice. “We’ve always liked Forest Park Forever, so we thought we’d pick this race because our interests aligned,” says Hinrichsen.

Annette Stowers and Kendra Neely-Martin are so engrossed in conversation that you can imagine them sitting a coffee shop instead of standing near the start line of a race they’re preparing to run. It’s the ease of experience.

“I love this Park,” says Stowers. “I probably do 10-15 races a year in this Park. I started running and walking in this Park probably 20 to 25 years ago. When I learned that this was the only race that really supports the Park, I have to be here every year to do it. Every freakin’ year.”  

For Neely-Martin, thinking about the Park whisks her back to childhood. “The fountain at the [World’s Fair] Pavilion was just part of growing up. We’d splash in that water in the summertime, and the Zoo was a must-do,” she says. “This is my first time doing this race, but it connects it all back [to my childhood]. It’ll be something that I add to my regime.”

The runners are asked to take their place at the start line. Dads pushing strollers, moms encouraging their young runners through their first 5K, experienced walkers, novice runners, all file in behind each other. Some have goals of a new personal record and take their positions toward to front. Others have a goal of finishing the race without walking, while others have signed up to do just that–enjoy a beautiful walk through Forest Park.

Regardless of their reasons, the cheers at the finish line will be the same. 

The 9th annual I Love Forest Park 5K presented by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield took place on August 25, 2019, drawing a record-breaking 1,245 registrants in support of Forest Park and Forest Park Forever. A special thanks to the runners, walkers, obstacle course participants, volunteers and sponsors! We look forward to seeing everyone again next year.

Jen Roberts