35 Crazylegs Classic Race Significant Moments
In honor of the 35th anniversary of the Crazylegs Classic race event taking place in Madison April 30, 2016, we thought it important to put together a chronology of important race moments that have taken place over the years. From its very inception, the race has brought together Badger fans of all ages and become the harbinger of spring in Wisconsin, something everyone looks forward to after the long winter.
In 1981, three running buddies, Tom Grantham, Ken Sparks, Rich Backus, come up with the idea for a race to support UW Athletics and name it after Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch.
Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, the former college and NFL gridiron star and UW Athletic Director (1969-1987) gives his permission to use his nickname and Grantham and friends plan the race.
The first 8K race was staged from the Capitol Square to Camp Randall Stadium in 1982. There were 1,525 runners and it raised $9,500.
Elroy Hirsch was at the start and finish line of every race held until his death in 2004. Today, the race chooses a Grand Marshal from celebrities in Madison and the state of Wisconsin to serve as the official starter. This year’s honoree is UW men’s basketball head coach Greg Gard.
The race, always held in the spring, was often part of a crazy Badger day which included the Midwest Rowing Regatta at Lake Wingra, the spring football game, and Butch’s Bologna Bash which followed the game.
Originally a runners-only race, walkers were invited to join in 1987, with 676 participating that first year. Now walkers make up over 25 percent of the participants.
Runner’s World has rated Crazylegs as one of America’s 100 best events.
Readers participating in the Capital Times/Wisconsin State Journal Reader's Choice Award survey have voted the Crazylegs Classic No. 1 for "Favorite Local Running Event" numerous times since inception!
Road Runners Club of America reported that a panel of our peers voted the Crazylegs Classic as one of 20 races across the country chosen for "Great Races! Great Places!" recognition. (Article in Footnotes Magazine, March, 2002 Issue).
Many participants look forward to the Crazylegs T-shirt and its unique design as much as the race itself. The 35th Crazylegs T-shirt was designed by local ad agency, Shine United.
The first race to crack the 10,000 participants mark was in 2000.
The National W Club took over administration of the race in 2001. The race director has always been Jim Bradley, one of the originators.
Chip timing devices were added in 2003 for runners to attach to their shoelaces. This raised the status of the event to an elite class and allowed for a more advanced results timing system. Timing systems have made several advancements over the years with the device now being part of the race bibs.
The race start locations added "sweat trucks" about 12 years ago for the convenience of participants to drop off their personal belongings and have them brought back to Camp Randall Stadium.
The event started providing race-day shuttles over 20 years ago to transport participants to the starting lines downtown near Capitol Square.
In 2008, in order to accommodate the growing number of walkers, the race committee decided to give the walkers their own starting line on the Capitol Square.
A competitive wheelchair category was added in 2005.
The starting line, which has always been at the Capitol, has moved around the square as the number of participants grew. Other improvements such as the "wave start" began in 2006.
The finish line has always been near the 50-yard line in Camp Randall Stadium, even when the stadium was under renovation.
Showing the finishers on the video board was added in 2006. Now both runners and walkers are shown finishing on a split screen on the big board in Camp Randall Stadium.
In addition to the Kohl Center, two packet pick-up locations were added in 2011 at the East and West Towne Best Buy stores to convenience the participants. This year, two Hy-Vee grocery stores, at their East and Fitchburg locations, will provide packet pick-up locations. Over 35 percent of the participants use these optional locations.
Post-race events have always included the UW Marching Band and now a variety of other bands join the stage as finishers grab a beer or water, and hang out with friends. Madison County, a favorite regional band, will play at this year’s 35th post-race party.
Fun and Fitness teams (minimum 10 members) were added in 1995. The highest number of teams registered hit 305 in 2011 and highest number of participants on teams reached 4,891 in 2012.
Crazylegs World was added in 2010 as an alternative event for Badger alums who could not be in Madison to participate in the Classic, but wanted to hold their own Crazylegs event simultaneously to take place on the same day. Since its inauguration, there have been Crazylegs World events held in 28 states and globally in 10 countries.
The Crazylegs Kids Team program was established in 2008. This program, for elementary school students, was created to promote youth fitness and daily exercise at school and at home. The physical educations and elementary school teachers embraced this program and volunteered their time in organizing their school team. Over 450 elementary school students have participated on a Kids Team since inception.
Over 400 volunteers assist on Crazylegs race committees, packet pick-up locations, along the routes as course marshals, and at the start/finish line locations on race day. Student-athletes, Bucky Badger, UW Spirit Squad, and UW Marching Band also join in the festivities at the race start and finish lines.
The weather often dictates the number of participants. The 1984 race was run in a 25 miles per hour wind, while the 1988 race started with snow flurries and ended with several inches of snow at the finish line. In 2009, the post-race entertainment had to be canceled due to torrential rains, high winds, and lightening.
The addition of multiple corporate sponsors for the Crazylegs Classic started to expand in 2001 as the registrations started to increase. Many of the sponsors used this event to showcase their products or services. However, the mainstay and presenting sponsor over the years has been the Wisconsin State Journal.
Four Olympians have taken part in Crazylegs, including former UW-Madison standouts Steve Lacy and Suzy Favor Hamilton. Lacy, who took part in the 1984 Olympics, won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988. Favor Hamilton, a three-time Olympian, was the top women's finisher in 1993. Rod DeHaven won the race in 2000, a week before winning the marathon at the U.S. Olympic Trials, which qualified him for the Sydney Olympics. Gwen Jorgensen, a 2012 and 2016 Olympic triathlete, won in 2010 and 2011.
The Crazylegs Classic has 15 different age groups, ranging from 14-and-under all the way to 80-plus. For as long as statistics on participants have been kept, the 25-29 years old age group has been the largest age group of registrants.
Since the establishment of awards for age groups, one Crazylegs participant, Lois Gilmore of Janesville, Wisconsin, has won her age group (which would have been 70 years and older) multiple times. She is one of the most successful and productive age-graded master distance runners in history.
To commemorate the 30th annual Crazylegs Classic in 2011, there were Crazylegs medals and posters designed. The Crazylegs poster featured all thirty (30) of the Crazylegs T-shirt designs.
A new streamlined registration process was added in February 2016 to allow for registrations to be processed online and through mobile devices.
The record for participants is 20,415 in 2010. The second highest was 19,819 in 2012.
Since the inaugural race 34 years ago, Crazylegs has attracted over 316,500 runners and walkers and raised over $3 million.