By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Race director Andy Hughes has no answer for the increase in registration for this year’s Gum Tree 10K.
He’s also asking no questions.
“I’m very optimistic we could have a big crowd at Gum Tree like we had in the mid ‘90s,” he said. “I think we could see 1,100 to 1,200 signed up for our 10K and 2K (fun run).”
Through Wednesday, 592 had registered, 200 ahead of last year’s pace. On-line registration has nearly doubled, going from 210 last year to 388 this year.
“Unless we have a bad weather day, and it’s supposed to be beautiful, I could see us getting 900 to 1,000 for our 10K,” Hughes said. “I’ve ordered more medals.”
Hughes said it takes “about 1,500 people – runners, volunteers, city employees and sponsors,” to make the race happen.
“I’ve had people calling like crazy wanting to volunteer this year,” he said. “We’ll have water stations on Joyner, Clayton, McCullough and Front Street. If anyone wants to help at those, I’m telling them to just show up and help.”
Hughes doesn’t think last week’s controversy with the GumTree Festival over the use Jefferson Street as part of the race course has had an effect on the registration.
“I don’t think it brought any negative attention to the race,” he said. “Everything I’ve heard about the race has been positive.”
Gum Tree race officials will use a “funneling” technique, which is commonly utilized at roadraces for narrow bridges and overpasses, to get runners past Festival vendors set up along the one block of Jefferson Street.
“I will make an announcement before the race to let the runners know,” Hughes said. “It’s in the first half mile. I don’t think there will be any problems.”
Elite field expected
Along with local favorites Rob Scribner and Tiffany McWilliams Dudley, the Gum Tree will have a field of elite racers.
Scribner, a former Tupelo High and Mississippi State distance standout, is bidding to become the first Tupelo-based runner to win the male open in the run’s 33-year history.
He’ll be challenged by Tyson David, a former Alabama 5K specialist from Kenya, who won the Corinth Coca-Cola 10K last week. Paul Langat, a Kenyan, who ran a 27:52 10K in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, has also entered.
Dudley is a former three-time NCAA champion at MSU in the 1,500 meters. She won in Corinth last week.
Gum Tree 10K
When: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
Where: Downtown Tupelo
What: 10,000-metter run (6.2 miles)
Radio Coverage: ESPN 96.3
Registration: $20 race morning