Community Involvement Makes ‘Grand Blue Mile’ More Than Just a Race

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  We’ve seen the painted streets and beautiful bulldogs but Tuesday starts the Drake Relays athletic competitions with the Grand Blue Mile.

The course is a little different from last year, the finish line is still in front of Wellmark on Grand Ave but it begins at Meredith Corporation on Locust Street and loops around to Grand.

Unlike many of the other competitions during Drake Relays, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to participate in the Grand Blue Mile.

In fact, Drake Relays says the largest demographic participating is a family of four, some even with strollers. Two-thousand participants are registered for the recreational mile Tuesday.

Organizers say a mile is an attainable goal that many people will take at their own pace. But on the other end of the spectrum this event is hosting the USA one-mile national championships.

“You’re going to watch some folks maybe set a personal best walking this event in 30 minutes and about a half hour or an hour later you’re going to see some of the nation’s fastest milers run this course potentially in under four minutes,” Grand Blue Mile Race Director Chris Verlengia said.

Grand Blue Mile organizers see this event as a way to actively involve the community in the Drake Relays. For the second year they are integrating a set the pace challenge.

“We’re actually providing $10,000 to the community with the highest percentage of its residents participating in the Grand Blue Mile for a chance to support a health and wellness project. So maybe that’s a park or playground in their community. So basically, being active on the street on Tuesday night at Grand Blue Mile you’re giving your community the chance to win $10,000. To have that kind of success and that momentum going into a health and wellness project later in the year,” Verlengia said.

Last year the city of Urbandale won the ‘Set the Pace’ challenge. They used the money to build a play pod along the trail in Walnut Creek Park.

Here is the Grand Blue Mile race day schedule:

6:00 P.M. – Iowa Kidstrong Fun Run – Non-competitive ¼-mile fun run for Iowa Kidstrong program participants.

6:15 P.M. – Recreational Division – Open to all ages & abilities, including runners, joggers, and walkers.

6:35 P.M. - Mascot Maddness Charity Challenge – Mascot dash featuring celebrity characters from across Iowa

6:45 P.M. – Women’s Competitive Division - Open to all competitive runners and recommended for sub-8-minute milers

7:00 P.M. - Men’s Competitive Division - Open to all competitive runners and recommended for sub-8-minute milers

7:15 P.M. - Women’s USATF 1 Mile Road Championship - America’s 1-mile national championship, held in conjunction with USA Track & Field

7:30 P.M. - Men’s USATF 1 Mile Road Championship - America’s 1-mile national championship, held in conjunction with USA Track & Field

There are also some road closures during the day on Tuesday:

Downtown Des Moines businesses will continue to be open and accessible throughout Grand Blue Mile. Please note the following closures to help plan your travel on race day.

9 a.m.  Grand Avenue from 10th to 14th Streets

12th Street between Grand Avenue and Locust Street

13th Street between Grand Avenue and Locust Street

3 p.m.  Fleur Drive between Locust Street and Grand Avenue

Fleur Drive northbound exit (near Water Works Park entrance) to Locus Street

Grand Avenue southbound (near Central Campus) to Fleur Drive

5 p.m.  17th Street between Grand Avenue and Locust Street

Locust Street between Fleur Drive and 16th Street

6 p.m.  Locust from 16th to 8th Streets

8th Street between Locust Street and Grand Avenue

Grand Avenue from 8th to 10th Streets