Over two decades ago, when the inaugural Kennett Run was held, only about 100 people participated.
It's popularity has soared over the years, however, to the point where it has now become everything and more that the original founders could've hoped for.
Last year, the Kennett Run celebrated its 20th anniversary and it was a race day to remember. Over 2,500 people showed up to take part in the Kennett Run's five events -- the 10K Run, 5K Run, 5K Keith McGrath Memorial Walk, 1-Mile Kids Run and 1-Mile Fun Walk. That total of 2,500 was a record turnout, smashing the previous mark by over 1,000 people.
"Last year was absolutely fantastic," said 2010 Kennett Run Race Director Al Iacocca. "This has truly become one of the marquee events in Chester County. It's just a fun day all the way around, and there's something for everyone.
"It is such a great community event, and it's nice to see such a large event in Kennett Square. All our sponsors are local. There's 100s of volunteers that make this go, and there's literally thousands of hours of work that go into making this happen. It's a testament to everyone involved."
One of the most impressive aspects of the run is the fact that it has raised over $800,000 for Kennett Run Charities, Inc., since its inception.
"We are extremely proud and pleased about that," said Iacocca.
There are some significant changes to this year's 21st annual Kennett Run on May 15, and they've been made to accommodate the drastic increase in participants.
For starters, the starting line for all major events will no longer be in front of the Kennett Inn on State Street. It has been moved to Union and East Sickle Street on Route 82.
There are changes to the course this year as well. In the past, the Champion Chip timing system was used, where runners were issued a rental computer chip to attach to their shoe laces. This year the Kennett Run will go with a new system called MyLaps. The timing chip will be in the runner's race number bib, and can be disposed of following the race.
There are also a few alterations in starting times: 10K Run (9 a.m.), 5K Run (9:10 a.m.), 5K Keith McGrath Memorial Walk (9:13 a.m.), 1-Mile Fun Walk (9:20 a.m.) and the 1-Mile Kids Run will go off at 10:30 a.m. in Anson B. Nixon Park.
Race organizers are also encouraging all participants to pre-register online at www.kennettrun.net . Cost is $5 less than race day registration, and the deadline to do so is May 10. Registration after that will take place at the Kennett Area YMCA on Friday, May 14 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., and again on race morning from 7 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. at the same location.
Race day parking will be available at Exelon, with shuttle buses on hand to transport participants into town.
The post-race party will again be held at the finish area in Anson B. Nixon Park. Free entertainment, food, beer and refreshments will be available. Cash prizes will also be awarded to some of the top finishers.
Last year Mouhline Outaleb, 31, won the 10K Run with a time of 31 minutes, 18 seconds. The top female finisher in the 10K Run was Lydia Carrick, 23, with a time of 38:49.
The 5K Run is the most popular event. Last year Tom Haxton won it in 15 minutes, 13 seconds. Christine Ramsey, 26, was the top female finisher in the 5K with a time of 17:26.
The Kennett Run also offers a unique event called PoweRun, where those who enter lift weights prior to running. For more on the details of that event visit www.kennettrun.net.
As usual, race organizers are hoping for great weather. If they get it, breaking last year's record turnout and getting over 3,000 participants is a possibility. As of April 22, a total of 1,500 people were already pre-registered.
"We'd like to see our numbers increase from last year, or at least stay the same," said Iacocca. "We try to hit every demographic. We have stuff for kids, we have stuff for elite runners, walkers, a party in the park afterwards. This was the vision when this race started 21 years ago, and it has now become everything that we hoped it would."