BLOOMINGTON — Braving cold temperatures and the occasional snowstorm is just a New Year’s tradition for some Bloomington-Normal cyclists and runners.
Once again, Fleet Feet and the McLean County Wheelers held annual events to celebrate the first day of the new year. The weather wasn’t quite ideal, but many athletes said they expected worse.
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“We call it a ride that’s low in miles and long in hot chocolate,” Wheelers President Kellie Williams said.
The ride is an annual tradition, although the mileage depends on the weather. Some years they can travel tens of miles if the weather is good, and others it can be just a short tour of the block.
“Tradition is just to say you did it,” Williams said.
Six cyclists showed up for the race, which started at Tipton Park in Bloomington. The wintry weather was going to keep it short, but Williams said she expected the wind to be worse, so they could hopefully go further than some years past.
Angi Whiting has been cycling for a few years now, she said. The New Year’s ride matched his goal of finding new things at the start of each year.
“I like doing something out of the box for me on the first of the year,” she said.
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Brian Schuneman geared up for winter with a fat tire bike. The bike offers extra traction and a wider footprint to help roll in snow. He started riding fat bikes about four years ago after his 50th birthday.
“I used to never look forward to snow, but now I have it,” he said.
The Wheelers took off during the wintery mix of precipitation that swept through the region for most of Saturday morning.
A little later, the riders starting from Fleet Feet had the chance to take a break in the rush and before the roads started to get slippery.
The New Year’s run has been a tradition for years now, possibly since the store opened, said Julie Sibley, owner of Fleet Feet Bloomington. Crowds are normally weather dependent, she said.
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“We’ll always have someone, no matter the weather, because there are a lot of crazy runners,” Sibley said.
Most of the runners there on Saturday are regulars at the fun Monday night races that the store also hosts. For Dianne Hollister, the store and the community that grew up around it played an important role in her racing life.
At 71, she has been running since she was 59 and said she was training for the Chicago Marathon.
Shelly Challans has been a triathlete for eight or ten years now, she said. She, too, appreciated the group’s support, especially encouraging her to stick to her goals and routines even when the weather wasn’t cooperating. She doesn’t like running in bad weather very much, but was still absent on Saturday.
“This is one of the most supportive groups, if not the most supportive group, this side of the Mississippi,” Hollister said.
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Contact Connor Wood at (309) 820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorkwood