Zeeland Zoom 5K returns after one year online

ZEELAND – For the first time in over a year, the streets of Zeeland city center came alive on Tuesday evening when the 12th Zeeland Zoom 5K flooded the city with runners of all ages.

More than 650 runners defended the city from near and far to organize the race and regain a sense of normalcy in the community. Kerri VanDorp, City Events Manager, was thrilled that she was finally able to help organize a people gathering in person again instead of having to participate in the online race.

“It’s so awesome, this event notoriously had a great energy,” VanDorp said. “So what a perfect event to kick off our kind of comeback and to socialize again.”

The event did not take a year off in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, however. Instead, like so many other things over the past year, it has gone virtual. Runners had a week to cover 3.1 miles anywhere they could, and then they posted their time and a selfie on a Facebook page to prove they had finished the race.

That was the plan again this year, until about three weeks ago. When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s June 1 executive order eliminated the need to wear face masks outdoors, the city frantically set to work, to organize the event in less than a month, a task that normally takes a whole year.

“Our timing worked really well, we were far enough away from June 1 to be able to do it well,” said VanDorp. “It was that challenge not having him in person last year, so I must have remembered how we did it last year.”

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The total of 655 runners who went out on Tuesday was a little lower than a normal year, but organizers were still delighted with the participation. The morning after announcing the race will be held in person this year, VanDorp said 39 people signed up overnight and she was thrilled with the number.

Abby deRoo, the city’s marketing manager, was one of the many people tasked with bringing the race to the fore in a short period of time, which was no small feat. She said they relied heavily on word of mouth but also technology to make sure everyone knew what was going on.

“We relied on social media a lot for this because there wasn’t a lot of time for anything else,” deRoo said. “I think we did a good job of getting the word out, people already had plans, they hadn’t practiced, so there are reasons the numbers are down a bit.”

The spirit and atmosphere around the event was cheerful, with music at the finish line and jovial volunteers handing out medals to everyone who finished. There were kids competing and even some dogs ran 5K with their owners.

But the competition at the top was also fierce. Jenison’s Zach Start crossed the finish line ahead of everyone else with a time of just over 16 minutes. He said he had used the Zoom three or four times in the past, but was so happy to be back after being away for a year.

“I was sad for last year because I was really excited to run this race”, but this year I was really excited, the city of Zeeland you have people thronging the streets [cheering for you] which is really cool… I loved it.

While the addition of Zeeland Zoom 5K winner was a nice title to add to his resume, it wasn’t the most important thing for him, or apparently anyone else who was there.

The city and all who inhabit it were just happy to see a glimpse of its old self come to life.

“You can feel that relief in the air,” deRoo said. “People are just happy to be here, you can tell they missed it. ”

—Contact Assistant Sports Editor Will Kennedy at Will.Kennedy@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on twitter @ByWillKennedy and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.

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