Greg Wenneborg has never seen the actual course for the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5K Night Run and Walk.
Wenneborg, a three-time Olympic trials qualifier and current Pima College track coach, has stood next to the finish line as an official timer, with his crew, for the past seven years. He has never raced in the event but hopes to lace up his running shoes next year.
Today around 3,000 entrants will participate in the 3.1-mile trek, making this event the largest locally produced 5K in Arizona.
Randy Accetta, the event’s founder, says he believes Meet Me Downtown will thrive despite temperatures in the triple digits.
“It hits on something that Tucson prides itself on. We can live in the heat,” Accetta said. “You’d think it would be different; on the contrary, people say, ‘Dude, I can do that.’ People want to challenge themselves.”
The Star caught up with Wenneborg to get his take on Meet Me Downtown.
Why is this race different from some of the other ones in Tucson?
A: “It’s a different type of race. Typically, races are in the morning. Besides the Sabino Canyon race, it’s the only other night race. Randy Accetta does a great job of promoting the entire event, so it reaches a lot of people. Its just a big party; that’s the whole idea. A big gathering for people of all abilities and ages. An opportunity to showcase downtown Tucson. For many people, it’s a new downtown.”
How do you prepare for the race? What’s your process?
A: “Its huge; its the biggest race I time all year. My work starts days before the actual race. Right now, I’m sticking labels onto about 2,500 race bibs. Friday, I prepared the paperwork for the packet pickups for the race, and on Saturday, I’ll get downtown early to prepare the finish line. It’s an all-day job. From early in the morning, to the timing of the race, to scoring and posting results.”
Is there a particular memory of one the past races that sticks with you?
A: “In the early days, people were not able to cross the finish line because of how many people were trying to get their times. People would stop a few feet before the finish line. Its really good to be using the technology we are now. This race has grown so much.”
What has this race done for the local running community?
A: “It’s one of those events — it’s not just a run — it’s a great opportunity for the community to be downtown and help the revitalization of downtown move forward.”
How far has the race and racing community come in Tucson?
A: “We’ve experienced steady growth in the running community. I’m happy where we are at. But, we want more people to join us because of the healthy activity and lifestyle. It’s one of those events that has grown over the years — we won’t know how big it will get.”
What’s the next step for this race and the running community?
A: “We need to continue to make all of our races of the highest quality and accurate courses. If we do that, we’ll be even more of not just a running or walking community, but an actually community. It’s one of those showcase events, it’s a celebration of fitness.”
What do you personally get out of your Meet Me Downtown experience?
A: “Running has always been an enormous part of my life. I get to play a big part of the running relationship with this community.”