Then and Now
It started 14 years ago with 100 runners: a 5K race designed to introduce the townspeople of Deland to the new community of Victoria Park.
The course wound through the community and past the new homes, serving as a publicity tool in addition to being a fun event where the public and Victoria Park residents could rub shoulders and get to know each other.
This year’s 5K run, which fell on St. Patrick’s Day, was called “The 14th Annual Victoria Park St. Patrick’s Day Chase the Leprechaun 5K.” Almost 450 runners entered, which is the most participants ever in a Victoria Park 5K.
What It Takes
For the past two years, Victoria Park Lifestyle Director Justine Tucker has been the force behind the race, working in tandem with a race management company hired to handle the logistics. This year’s race company was Volusia County-based Run 4 A Cause.
Several months ahead of this year’s March race, Justine sat down with Run 4 A Cause for a detailed planning meeting and to hammer out the contract details. In the meeting she presented her vision and goals, plus the race theme, logo, T-shirt design ideas, and T-shirt colors. She also discussed the winner medals (silver, bronze and platinum), the free kids’ race, the award ceremony and other details.
While the race company moved into the planning and logistics, Justine started securing sponsorships and aggressively advertising through the West Volusia Beacon, the Pennysaver magazine, and on Facebook. She also communicated frequently with city officials regarding the route, barricades, police officers for the event, etc.
Participant registrations started coming in as early as January through the Run 4 A Cause website. Early birds registered for $20; later registrations paid $25; and end-of-March and Day of Race signups paid $30. Race 4 A Cause collected online registrations and sent the payments biweekly to Justine at Victoria Park.
Gathering sponsorships is a big component of the 5K project, and Justine is the person who secures these. This year she had repeat sponsors and also one new one.
On race day, registration opened at 5pm. The starting gun went off at 6:30pm.
The course, which was approved by the city of Deland and certified by the race management company, followed the route that has been in place for the last few years. It took place in the Victoria Park commons, going past the pool and the lake, past the shops in the village section, and through the original part of the community that is now built out.
Some runners finished the race in just under half an hour; the last runners finished up at 7:30pm. The awards ceremony was held at 7:45pm.
Justine is enthusiastic about how the event turned out, especially because of the record participation, generous sponsors, and buy-in from the community. Local business owners donated goods, including Mulligan’s Tavern & Grille that provided free green beer for runners at the end of the race, and a printer that donated green cups.
There were a few sleepless nights for Justine before race day as she worked out the last details, and event day was a 14-hour work marathon, but she loved the project and the results. She’s thrilled at the proceeds from the race and the sponsorships that will benefit the Kiwanis Club of Deland, Give Kids the World, the YMCA, and Freedom Elementary School.
Is a 15th 5K Ahead?
She loves the energy and enthusiasm that surrounds the race, both on the part of runners and of the community. The race continues to serve its original purpose of drawing the town and residents of Victoria Park together. There is excitement around the event because it’s just plain fun, and there is appreciation of it because the proceeds go to some great causes.
What about next year? Will there be a 15th Annual Victoria Park 5K?
Probably, if Justine has anything to do with it. The course will likely have to change next year, though. Parking just for the runners has become tight (almost 450 cars, if you figure one car per runner), and this year’s parking area is going to be occupied soon with a new building. The overall event will be similar to this year’s and Justine is already excited about another great turnout.
To see all of the great pictures from this year’s event, click here!