COLUMBIA — Early every Tuesday and Thursday morning, while most Columbians are still snug in their beds, an intrepid group of runners gathers at the entrance to the MKT Trail just off of Forum Road. The 5:30 a.m. start time might appear masochistic during the winter months, but it also spares them from the worst of the summer heat.
Tuesday, the informally named 5:30 Running Group celebrated another year of existence with speeches, raffle giveaways and an attempt to eclipse its largest attendance ever, which was accomplished in June of last year.
According to Mike Tripp, one of the group’s organizers, the unofficial tally came to 240, beating last year's attendance by a slim margin of two.
“At some point it’s got to level out,” reasoned Maggie Johnston, one of the first women to join the group. “There are only so many people in Columbia.”
Many of the runners who did make Tuesdays workout brought their children and dogs along for the occasion, making for a festive atmosphere despite the early hour. A variety of course options made it possible for runners of all abilities to take part.
First-time participant Jason Aubrey said the event definitely motivated him to get up early for the occasion.
“I’ve always wanted to come,” Aubrey said. “This seemed to be a great time to start.”