Serious runners and leisurely walkers are all welcome to the 38th annual Franklin Classic on Monday, Sept. 5 beginning at 7 a.m. The race through Historic Downtown Franklin benefits Mercy Community Healthcare and presents an opportunity for families to do something fun together while helping others.
“I always love coming to the Classic,” said Ironman competitor Shay Eskew, who will be competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Australia the day before the Classic but at least four of his five children are expected to participate for him.
“I hate I’m going to miss it this year. I love to see people racing who have every reason to sit home and do nothing.”
People with handicaps, people of all shapes and sizes, and those with other issues and limitations, “put aside their issues and race anyway,” Eskew added. “They push themselves to do it. It’s good to remember we can’t take good health for granted.”
Eskew understands that first hand. After surviving third degree burns on the right side of his body when he was 8 years old, Eskew said he was told he’d never be able to participate in competitive sports again.
“Hearing people tell me I can’t do something is the ultimate motivator to prove them wrong,” he said. “I always felt competing in events allowed me to escape the label of being the "burn kid" and allowed me to be a normal kid for once.”
Although a competitive event, according to Ben Stealy, Fuel manager for Mapco, a sponsor of the event, “The Franklin Classic has some new different aspects which will allow more families to participate. It’s all about getting the family engaged and doing something together.”
This will be Stealy and his wife Becky’s first time participating in the Franklin Classic, and they are excited.
During the Classic, participants and their supporters will enjoy musical entertainment, vendors and the Family Zone, which offers activities to keep kids occupied until their race begins.
Those with plenty of energy may choose to run in the 10K or 5K race or 5K wheelchair race. Youngsters or those just getting in shape can participate in the 1K Fun Run.
Timing chips will be available for those running in the 1K Fun Run, adding a new competitive edge to the event.
Organizers are actively reaching out to running clubs and other working additions to the race including a chance to run the 10K or 5K course before race day and training classes for newcomers or those in need of help getting back into race shape. They have also added a few more awards including Best Costume.
Eskew and Stealy are big believers in supporting local events, which is why they got involved with the Franklin Classic. Both said the event could become a “destination event” because of its special qualities. The camaraderie and friendliness of the racers and the variety of elite runners, novices and casual walk/runners and celebrities is not seen at many races Eskew said, recalling seeing Ironman Dave Watson at a race and one year running to the finish line with Dierks Bentley. However, Bentley was not happy his wife, Cassidy Black, beat him by several seconds. Of course, she ran the Boston Marathon in 2014. Another year, Nicole Kidman was seen running in the Kids Run with her daughters.
“And nobody harasses them,” Eskew added.
The welcoming community, the music, the history and other opportunities before and after the race can easily draw people from across the country, Eskew and Stealy said.
“Come run the Classic in the morning and then go to the barbecue afterwards, and you won’t feel so guilty about what you eat,” Stealy added.
For more information about or to register for the Franklin Classic and to sign up, go to franklinclassic.racesonline.com