Aside from St. Jude, The Cooper Young 4-miler is easily the Memphis running event of the year. It’s a night race that kicks off the Cooper Young Festival, which is the following Saturday, also located in the beloved neighborhood in midtown. This year it was on Friday, September 18th and it did everything but disappoint.
When thinking of this race, the first things things that come to mind may be:
- Jello shots
While all fantastic, these are not the typical words associated with your common local running event. But that’s what makes it so unique and wildly popular. Us Memphians love a good party.
For many of us, it is the one race all year where we can convince our family and friends to come watch us run. Running is notorious for not being a “spectator sport,” but throw beer into the mix and all the boys come to the yard.
Sure there is beer, music, and a party after most races, but what sets CY apart is the fact that there are all these things and more during the entire 4 miles. The runners start in front of Memphis Made Brewery and head south down Cooper, where they are welcomed with cheering spectators sitting on the patios of local bars and restaurants. Once Cooper hits the train tracks, the runners turn into the neighborhoods where the fun begins. Here, they find packs of residents drinking in lawn chairs and cheering with their friends and families. Some super-fans have “water stations” where they pass out beer and jello shots. The really dedicated locals have rowdy house parties with bands and/or DJs. This year, a crowd favorite was the project-x looking house with a banner inscribed “TOGA, TOGA, TOGA.”
While this race is fun, it doesn’t stop there. What really makes it special is that it bridges the gap between the Memphis runners and the Memphis community. It is competitive, but by no means does it require you to be a serious runner or even a runner at all to participate. Athletes, joggers, spectators, and heavy drinkers are all welcome. In the first corral you’ll find your fast people, but no matter what pace you are running/walking you will never finish last. There will always be someone who is better at partying than you and maybe even those who stop at so many jello shot and beer stations that they don’t even find the finish. In fact, its probably much more fun to booze on the sidelines or at a comfortable jogging pace than to bust your butt for some temporary bragging-rights.
But, for those of us who are too busy trying to beat each other to the finish, there is plenty of fun still to be had. High Cotton brewery provided the beer and they let the thirsty runners double fist (that’s right, a beer per hand per runner per each visit).
There was also pizza, fruit, and other snacks. They had a band and a free photo booth with accessories. Awards were as pleasing as always. Overall winners received a $100 gift card to Breakaway and age group winners all received the famous CY medal, which are conveniently equip with a bottle opener.
This race is extremely well organized, fun for anyone and everyone, and comes at the perfect time of the year. You run into just about everyone you know… if you can find them in the crowd. This race is only growing in popularity and seems to improve with each coming year.