Shamrock Shuffle, world’s largest timed 8K, to be run Sunday

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The 2011 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K race is held in Grant Park on Sunday, April 10, 2011 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

Mark Colpoys was not pulling gamesmanship when he described Fleet Feet/Nike Racing Team going into the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K on Sunday.

“I would tell you we are in a rebuilding year,” said Colpoys, who directs the team. “The Shamrock Shuffle is for our existing guys to get out and stretch out, and as a recruiting tool for people who are there.”

The club needs to recruit. Their top female runner married and moved to Oregon. Their top male, Chad Ware, a familiar name in Chicago running, went into active military service; so a repeat of the second place finish by their men is unlikely.

Might as well recruit from the historic field on Sunday. The Shamrock Shuffle has grown past its role as the starter for Chicago runners. The 40,000 participant cap was reached in early March, making it the largest field in the 33 years of the Shamrock Shuffle and the largest timed 8K in the world.

“It is just a great testimony to the running community in the Chicago,” said race director Carey Pinkowski, citing the runners, volunteers and civic and corporate support.

“Carey does it so there is something for everybody,” said Peter Henkes, one of the most knowledgeable runners in the Midwest. “You have the elite field. It allows some elite runners and some emerging elites to get together. . . . They really care about our Olympians.”

The elite field should include Nicole Blood, Julia Lucas, local favorite Delilah DiCrescenzo, Olympian Diane Nukuri-Johnson and Melissa White. U.S. Olympic team member Abdi Abdirahman should be running.

The race also has changed in the last four years with the addition of the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Elite Club Competition. About 30 elite teams from nine states are competing for $20,000. The Shamrock Shuffle always has had competition for trophies.

“People have been calling me all day long wanting to run,” Pinkowski said Friday.

The field could grow if new wave and corral configurations this year work out.

“It is kind of a kickoff to the running season in Chicago,” Colpoys said. “[Pinkowski] is really active in cultivating local elite athletes and providing a platform for people to come together and have a good time. It started off just for folks from the Chicagoland area. I think it is great. It helps promote the sport.”

“I will put this 8K up against any in the country,” Henkes said. “It has something for everyone. They treat everybody good. It is scenic, the beautiful lakefront.”

He should like the Shamrock Shuffle, which covers 8K (five miles) through downtown, beginning and ending in Grant Park. He directs the Wisconsin Runner Racing Team, two-time defending champs. “It is a great course,” Henkes said. “It amazes me when I go down and the leaders are coming in and some are still going out. And you never know about the weather.”

Ah, the weather. The heat broke in time.

“It has been an amazing spring,” Pinkowski said. “It looks like some great running weather. Actually Sunday looks perfect.”

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