By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Swirling sleet, near-freezing temperatures and snow-covered trails didn’t detour about 300 runners and walkers who competed in the Groundhog 7 race on Feb. 1. Attendees brought donations to the Zionsville Food Pantry as their entry fee to participate in the 7-mile race organized by Indy Runners.
The route began and ended at Zionsville Community High School and ran along the Zionsville Rail Trail and through nearby neighborhoods.
“Race conditions were challenging and times were impacted by the slippery footing in the fresh snow,” said Don Keller, race director. “Many participants commented that they enjoyed the winter scenery of the Zionsville Rail Trail with a coat of fresh snow.”
Mike Cole finished first overall with a time of 41:52, and Rhiannon Johns was the top female finisher at 42:22. But the real winner of the day was the Zionsville Food Pantry, which received an estimated 900 pounds of food as well as some cash donations.
“By asking for a food donation as the race entry fee we’re able to share our good fortune with others in our community,” Keller said. “The generosity of runners never ceases to amaze me.”
Race organizers constantly monitored weather conditions beginning the night before the event, when snow began falling in the area. Ultimately, they decided that the course was safe enough for the race to go on.
Despite the wintry weather, participation was down by only seven runners this year compared to 2014. Pre-registration was much higher this year, which marked the 43rd annual Groundhog race.
“I love putting on this race in Zionsville. It signals the start of the racing season,” Keller said.
“The tradition of holding it on Superbowl Sunday let us all burn some extra calories before the big game.”