MAHOMET — Mark Kesler and Alan Singleton have a long-standing tradition. Every August, they bump into each other at the annual Mahomet Area Youth Club 5K, 10K and half-marathon runs.
"At one point in time, Gary Matthews or Trudy Matthews (club co-founders) or somebody on the race committee pointed out that both Mark and I had been at nearly every race," Singleton said. "Since that time, I always look around to see if he's there. We see each other and talk and sometimes we'll email ahead of time."
In 1997, Kesler served on the MAYC board when the organization first considered the run as a fundraiser.
"They were thinking of a fundraiser for the club and they came up with doing a 5K or 10K run," Kesler said. "At the time, runs were kind of popular. This was before the Illinois Marathon and a lot of people were participating in it."
When he first decided to sign up for the race, Kesler recalls being in the "worst shape" of his life.
"I'd been eating McDonalds and all of that stuff," he said. "I remember when I turned 40 I said this would be a good idea to run."
Over two decades later, Kesler's never looked back. Though he doesn't refer to himself as an active runner, Kesler does enjoy running in the country every now and then and uses the August race as "good motivation."
Fellow runner Singleton said he uses the MAYC run along with the Illinois Marathon as his two "bookends."
"I have two races that I run and that I try to put on my calendar — the MAYC run and some portion of the Illinois 5K, 10K or half-marathon," Singleton said. "It gives me one to look forward to in the spring and another in the summer."
And though Saturday's event is something both runners view as a friendly competition to see who will continue the streak, Singleton said it also keeps him driven.
"It's important to make a race date," he said. "It gives you a purpose instead of hitting that snooze alarm. It makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and get a run in."
Friendly challenges aside, both runners view the MAYC run as a means to support the local organization they both cherish.
"You see so many people come out from the community," Kesler said. "It's not really about the run, it's about the opportunity to support the MAYC mission. It's a fantastic organization for our community no doubt about it."
"(MAYC) is embedded in the community," Singleton added. "I just think it's a great way to come out for a nice community event."
The 21st annual MAYC 5K, 10K and half-marathon runs all start at the Mahomet-Seymour High School's track, with the 10K and half-marathon starting at 7 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 4) followed by the 5K at 7:20 a.m. Late registration is accepted the day of the event.
The fun kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday (Aug. 3)with the 1-mile Mahomet Fun Run/Walk at the high school track, where individuals and teams are encouraged to put their funniest costumes on display. The individual who wows the crowd with the best costume will receive $50, while the team that makes the most people laugh will earn $100.
In Kesler and Singleton's time, the race has grown tremendously, but one thing never changes — it's always a good turnout.
"When we did this we were thrilled to have 120 runners and we thought it was a great day," Kesler said. "Now they have 700 to 800 runners and that's pretty amazing. It just builds year after year after year. People come out and support the run."
For those interested in participating for the first time, Kesler said the event offers something for everyone.
"Come on out," Kesler said. "You're going to meet a lot of people and you're going to support a great program. You can walk it or you can run it — whatever fits your fancy. The proceeds go to a great cause."
For more information about the race festivities, visit mahometyouth.org/run-mahomet.