The Firecracker4 in Saratoga Springs, an increasingly popular Independence Day road race since 2006, is the latest sports event to be snuffed out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Well, not entirely snuffed out.
The four-mile race, which loops its way from Broadway, Circular Street, Caroline Street and Excelsior Avenue, has been canceled, but will remain an important fundraiser for a variety of charities this summer with a virtual option from 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 28, to midnight on Saturday, July 11.
Runners will receive a commemorative t-shirt and medal, will have their results tabulated and will have the opportunity to help out worthy causes at a time when money can be scarce in light of event shutdowns.
The race not only drew a field of 2,627 finishers last year, but attracted some top runners from out of town, including Lindsey Scherf, a former three-time NCAA Division I All-American who had finished ninth at the Freihofer’s Run for Women a month prior to the 2019 Firecracker4.
Meanwhile, race director Patrick Lynskey of Green Leaf Racing LLC, said the Firecracker4 has raised over $300,000 for charity over the last 13 years.
If the race can’t be held this year, the objective now is to at least maintain the fund-raising element to some degree while offering a way for runners to remain connected to the “racing” side of it with the virtual option.
“I’m really disappointed, actually, that we can’t have the race this year, because it was going to be on a weekend [Saturday, July 4], and the way things were progressing, I think we could’ve had some really great competition,” Lynskey said. “And I think we were going to see our numbers go up again.
“It’s a disappointing in a sense that we had momentum coming into 2020, but I think we’re just going to have to do the best that we can with what we have now.”
Runners who have already registered for the Firecracker4 have three options, switching to the Virtual 4 Mile, donating their entry to the race’s charity partners or deferring to the 2021 race with no additional charge.
Each of the three options can be completed at runsignup.com/Race/NY/
For those choosing to participate in the Virtual 4 Mile, they can run any four-mile course of their choosing, under CDC and New York State physical distancing guidelines, and submit their times for tabulation.
“In a way, it gives people from farther away a way to participate,” Lynskey said. “I got an email from a guy down in St. Petersburg, Florida, who wants to do the virtual Firecracker. He actually emailed me and said, ‘Hey, do you know of any four-mile courses around here that I could use?’
“So I sent him a link to a USATF archive that has courses from all over the country where you can just put in what city you’re in and what distance you’re looking for, and it populates all the courses in your area.”
Lynskey said the inaugural Firecracker4 drew 400-500 runners.
It grew not only in field size and quality, but a parallel development was an expansion of the charitable aspect, especially in the last few years.
“We courted some professional runners,” Lynskey said. “I actually did some promotion down in Nyack, the Westchester Track Club area, New York city, and we got runners actually calling us and saying, ‘Hey, I want to come and race.’
“I think we had three or four guys under the old course record last year. And we had Lindsey Scherf come up. She had run the Freihofer’s Run a month before.”
The Firecracker4’s charitable partners include the Veterans Business Council Scholarship Program, Pitney Meadows Community Farm Trails Project, the Streaks Running Club Inc., Racing City Running Club and the Children’s Museum at Saratoga.
Lynskey said the race has a particularly strong relationship with the VBC, which donates scholarship money to military veterans and service members who live in Saratoga County.
According to the VBC website, the scholarship program is on hold until further notice.
“They’ve been a long-time partner of ours with the event, Lynskey said. “We haven’t donated in a big way with them in the past, but we’ve been able to help them out. And I looked on their web, and they had to cancel their scholarship program. My goal was to raise enough to be able to support at least one of their scholarships.
“That’s the thing about any of these events, the Freihofer’s Run, the Firecracker, the Silks and Satin — hopefully, we’ll see where turkey trots are in the fall — but all of these events support some sort of charitable organization. These charities really depend on these events in a big way. It’s a big part of their annual budget. So anything we can do to continue to support those programs is very important.
“Hopefully, this will allow us to help the local not-for-profits that we’re supporting. I think it’s a great way for people from all over the place to continue their Independence Day Fourth of July running and walking tradition.”