Run the Life Time Torchlight 5k – a Minneapolis Summer Tradition
As you approach the starting line of the Life Time Torchlight 5k in downtown Minneapolis, you can feel the heat radiating from several blocks away. It could be from the blistering Minnesota summer sun, or the almost 7,000 runners who have gathered to blast their way down Hennepin Ave. Either way, it will propel you to run the fastest 5k of your life.
For the past bunch of years, this late July 5k has been part of the Aquatennial festival in Minneapolis. This summer tradition, like lakes, outdoor movies and ice cream, really is for everyone. It hosts the USATF Minnesota 5k championships, (Aaron Easker, the 2014 winner ran a 14:52) as well as walkers who finished in over an hour. It celebrates the inclusive nature that running is all about.
Kelly Donahue, Regional Brand Manager for Life Time has run this event since before she was an employee, she says her favorite part is,
…finishing over the Stone Arch Bridge. It’s such a historical icon of Minneapolis, and the sunset behind the city is beautiful.
Here are a few things to know about this Minneapolis summer tradition.
For years, the race was organized by the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Life Time took over in 2003. According to multiple sources… nobody knows exactly how long it’s been around! People have looked into this, but there doesn’t seem to be a source to know how long it has really been around.
Jodee Thomas, personal trainer and 1-to-1 run coach at the Coon Rapids Life Time, has run all of them since Life Time took over (except 2014). Her first was,
…about 11 years ago… maybe 12… I don’t have an exact date… I do know it started out as a 4 mile race…
She recalls one year it had to be canceled due to extreme heat. The following year is when they added “the flames throwers” and other amenities to attract more runners.
Perhaps this was when Bryan Sanborn took over as race director. Sanborn directed the event from 2007 – 2013, and made it his mission to help it become an even bigger tradition. He says,
I created partnerships with local specialty run shops, and REI to offer in store registration of the events through discounts and registration incentives. This drove 40-60% of race entries along with raising the profiles of our great running shops in the area. We added better entertainment at the end of the race along with better refreshments.
For years, there was a different course every year depending on permits they were able to get. Thankfully, they have been able to have the same course for the past 3 or 4 years. This makes it a lot easier for runners to know what to expect.
The Torchlight 5K starts near the historic Basilica of Saint Mary and follows the Aquatennial’s CenterPoint Energy Torchlight Parade route. The course offers up close views of the Guthrie, Gold Medal Park, the Mighty Mississippi River, Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Main.
Many people mention the spectators along the way – as if they are part of the planning. Rich Rein and Rick Berg both mentioned this via facebook. Berg describes them as “built in” since many show up early for the parade. Likewise, Thomas said this is one of the reasons why this course is fantastic for beginners.
…most 5k’s won’t have that many spectators cheering. It’s great for beginners… very encouraging no matter your pace.
Sanborn recalls that one of his favorite memories was the year they added the pre-show before the race. This is when the 30 ft vertical flames arrived. He said,
…we had a Locker-Room style pep talk that transitioned to Thunderstruck by AC/DC to pump up the crowd of runners. To this day I remember seeing the faces on the Elite runners… At the end of the race, I had many Team USA MN runners come up to me saying they were not planning to “race” the 5k but after an intro like that, how could they not…
3 Reasons to Run
Minnesotans are big on tradition. The Torchlight 5k is one of those races that many I know make a point of signing up for. Nobody wants to miss out! Here are three reasons you will probably enjoy it as well.
First, it’s a rare, evening race, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the summer. It’s hot, sticky, and represents all things that a Minnesota summer should.
Second, it’s a TON of fun! It is unique for one race to be both completely social and completely competitive. Even if you are a hard core racer who deplores any flare or swag, you can’t help but gain energy from the buzz of the crowd.
Third, it’s a great course with a great after party. Running through the heart of downtown Minneapolis and finishing on St. Anthony Main after crossing the Stone Arch Bridge never gets old. The bands, beer (free for participants AND spectators) and photo booth are just a few elements you can experience after the race.
Grab some friends and, if it isn’t already, make it your July tradition.
If you’re not part of the team circuit, but want to run fast, show up early. The first time I ran in 2011, I was a little late, and stuck in the middle of the herd. I spend most the race zig-zagging around slower runners down Hennepin. I passed what seemed like 1,000 runners, but it wasn’t ideal. The following year, I got there early, right behind the really fast people, and had a much better race. The third time I just enjoyed waving to people along the way, and the post race entertainment.
Another reader on facebook, Laura Tallen, who ran the Torchlight 5k as her very first race, loved the crowds as well, but also said to, “Make sure you arrive early or take public transportation because parking can be difficult…”
To combat the transportation issue this year, they will offer free shuttles back near the starting line.
Register today to ensure you’re getting the best price.
Is the Life Time Torchlight 5k a summer tradition for you? Share your experience below.