Darren Dash will now be part of Freedom Fest

Published 8:19 pm Monday, June 17, 2024

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One of Austin’s iconic road races is getting a shift in schedule as it now joins Freedom Fest and will take place at 8 a.m. on July 6.

The Darren Dash, which is entering its 13th annual year, will be a 5K race and will take place at the Rotary Centennial Park in Austin.

Scott Lewis started the Darren Dash after his brother Darren passed away in 2011 and he hopes that moving the race to be part of the Freedom Fest celebration will increase participation.

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“All road races have dropped down in general since COVID-19,” Scott said. “In the very first year we had this, we had like 500 people run. We had a newness with it, Darren had just passed six months prior and a lot of his college teammates came back from Mankato. We don’t get that crowd anymore and we don’t do the half marathon anymore (like we did then). We just do the 5K.”

Over the years, the Darren Dash has raised over $33,000 in college scholarships for 58 area runners. All Austin High School and Pacelli High School cross country runners, who have been on the team for at least two years have received the $500 scholarship.

Some of those runners have come back and run in the Darren Dash, including Lewis’s daughter Abby, who competed in five state cross country meets for the Packers. Abby is likely to return for the Darren Dash this year after she competes in Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth on June 21.

“It’s kind of nice to see the runners who have gone on and run in college and they still want to be part of this,” Scott said.

The race has also had some consistent runners who have kept it afloat, including Tim and Bonnie Reitz, Randy Kramer, and Shelley Thompson. Those four and others have helped keep the race focused on improving mental health and also encouraging young people to take on running.

“It makes us remember Darren and knowing that something good became of all of this is really rewarding,” Scott said. “When I can go to those cross country banquets and hand out those scholarships, it’s always great.”

The Darren Dash will fill in the gap left by the five-mile Hog Jog, which hasn’t returned since the COVID-19 pandemic. By making the race a 5K instead of five miles, participation should increase.

“People will be coming back for Freedom Fest and they’ll be looking for family things to do,” Scott said. “I think we’ll get some people who are from town to try it out.”

To register for the race, visit darrendash.org. The first 150 registrants will receive a t-shirt and a wristband.

The Daren Dash has been held up by about 20 local sponsors who help provide the funding for the race and the scholarships.