By Jackie Nelson
HESSTON—The Emma Creek Classic is joining a myriad of races going digital. The 31st annual race, and its “Where’s Emma” theme is designed for racers to take part anywhere and almost any time.
“We weren’t able to do any sort of 5K last year because of COVID. We wanted to bring it back this year. Even though we can’t be together, we’re certainly together in spirit,” Hesston Recreation Office Manager Christine Wyrick said.
Wyrick said the HRCE was faced with another year of uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic.
“When we were making the decision about whether to take the race live or go virtual, the Harvey County Health Department had a limit of 50 on mass gatherings. They said it could change back to 10 at any time, had the COVID numbers gone up again,” she said.
The event draws between 700 and 900 racers each year, plus any spectators and supporters. And, Wyrick added, while the race itself was outside, many of the components of the race—registration, packet pick up, brunch and the awards ceremony—are all held indoors.
“So we decided to go virtual with a “Where’s Emma” theme, since you can run virtually anywhere” she said.
Women can register for the race for free at hrce.org and will receive a ticket that will be entered for prize drawings. Participants can purchase an Emma Creek 5K T-shirt, as well. Runners can complete their 5K any time between April 14 and 28 anywhere they like.
While the race will not be held in person, the HRCE is finding ways to continue the sense of women in community the Classic is known for.
“We are making this as interactive as possible. If you wear an Emma shirt from a previous race and post it on our Facebook page, you get another ticket for the prize drawing,” Wyrick said.
While women may not be gathering in person, the spirit of the race will continue.
“The Emma Creek 5K is really a big family. Women come back year after year for this race. They know each other and know us. Many say it’s their favorite 5K of all. That means a lot to us,” Wyrick said.
Wyrick said this year’s Emma Creek “it’s really like remaking the wheel” as the HRCE had to start from scratch creating the event.
“Everything you do for a virtual race is different,” Wyrick said. “But it’s also exciting to try something new.”
However, there is one drawback to the flexibility of the digital race is “since people run wherever they like, there is no certified course,” she said. And times will not be kept.
Wyrick said, thus far, dozens of women have registered for the race in Kansas and surrounding states—even as far afield as Indiana.
“I think the highlight for us is just letting the Emma Creek ladies know we are still here for them and miss them,” she said.