About the Sunburst Races
About Sunburst Races
Sunburst Races is one of the premier regional running events in the Midwest. Held each year in South Bend, Indiana, the race begins in downtown South Bend and finishes on the field of the venerable University of Notre Dame football stadium. The race, owned and managed by Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Inc., coincides with the University of Notre Dame’s Reunion Weekend, which is frequently the first weekend in June. The race typically attracts nearly 10,000 participants and has an economic impact on the local economy that approaches $750,000 annually. The 2013 race will mark the 30th anniversary running of the Sunburst Races.
Six different events make up Sunburst Races. On Friday evening, a Family Walk meanders through downtown South Bend that attracts roughly 500 young children and their families each year. Race Day events include a Fun Walk, 5K run, 10K run, Half Marathon and Marathon. The Sunburst Marathon is a Boston-qualifier; both the marathon and the half marathon are certified by the United States of America Track & Field (USATF) governing body. Proceeds from Sunburst Races benefit the Memorial Children’s Hospital.
The first Sunburst marathon was June 2, 1984, and was organized by a group of dedicated marathoners who wanted to host an Indiana marathon in South Bend. As it happens, this very first race also marks the hottest Sunburst Races race day on record. In its first year, 2,000 people participated.
Sunburst actually has it origins in a local American Lung Association event that preceded Sunburst in the community.
The marathon and half marathon provide a beautiful course along the scenic St. Joseph River; the marathon also includes parts of Mishawaka, Indiana. Parts of the course include “out and back” elements, meaning that runners go out, and then return along the same route in some instances. With a relatively flat course and an elevation in South Bend of approximately 725 feet, the Sunburst Races are an ideal venue for setting personal records or qualifying for specific races.
One exception to the flat nature of the course is “Hallelujah Hill,” located on Niles Avenue. While not particularly long, this hill is steep and, at about Mile 23, reaching the top of it is truly a “Hallelujah” moment for many runners! Another short, steep hill also appears around Mile 11, though that one allows for plenty of recovery time coming as early as it does in the race.
Packet Pick-Up Day
Packet pick-up is from Noon – 8 p.m. the Friday before the race, and is also the last opportunity to register for any of the events. This fun, festive atmosphere serves as a kick-off to summer in Michiana as local crowds join runners and their friends and families to enjoy the vendors on hand, a DJ, and, in 2012, several other exciting additions including the unveiling of the 2012 Sunburst Races photo contest winner, original works of art that will serve as 1st place awards for each of the races, a brief performance by the South Bend Youth Symphony, a “Rootin’ Table” where friends and family members can create signs to cheer on their favorite runner, an appearance by celebrity runner Dick Beardsley and a local professional BMX performer.
An Important Mission: Supporting the Memorial Children’s Hospital
In 2009, Race Director Molly Sullivan and Sunburst Races Committee Chair Alan Loyd approached the senior leadership of Memorial Hospital about making Sunburst Races a fundraiser to support the Memorial Children’s Hospital. The support for this decision from the community was tremendous, and the impact that Sunburst Races has had on the children’s hospital has grown each year.
Memorial Children’s Hospital, Northern Indiana's only designated children’s hospital, welcomes and treats children with a wide variety of medical and surgical diagnoses from more than 22 referring hospitals throughout Southwestern Michigan and Northern Indiana. Memorial Children’s Hospital is a 65-bed facility that includes 36 beds in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), 20 inpatient beds, and 9 Pediatric Intensive Care Unit beds (PICU). Last year alone, Memorial Children’s Hospital treated more than 3,500 children, the NICU treated more than 400 babies, and the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program treated more than 300 patients.
In 2012, proceeds and donations from Sunburst Races went toward the purchase of a new ambulance for Memorial Children’s Hospital and medical equipment needed on board. In 2011, the Pediatric Emergency Transport Team (PETS) transported 269 children both into and out of the children’s hospital. Over the past six years, the PETS team has averaged 300 pediatric transports per year. Surrounding hospitals that use PETS come from 10 counties including: Lake, Porter, Starke, Elkhart, St. Joseph, LaPorte, Fulton, Marshall, Pulaski and Berrien, Mich. The current ambulance being used was purchased in 1999 and has logged 193,000 miles. Last year, the PETs ambulance drove more than 34,000 miles transporting children for medical services.
Inspire a Child Medal Donations
Team members from the Memorial Children’s Hospital will be on hand both at packet pick-up and at the finish line to share with the public the important work of the children’s hospital and also to accept medal donations from runners who would like to donate a medal to a child currently in the hospital.
The idea is simple enough, and the impact can be powerful. Many runners have collected medals from countless races over the years; often these medals just sit in a drawer somewhere collecting dust. Why not give one of those medals to a child who could use a little encouragement? Runners who choose to donate a medal will also be given a card to write a brief note of inspiration to the child that will receive the medal. We can’t tell you how excited many of these children are to receive such a thoughtful gift!
Volunteers & Sponsors
In every sense of the word, Sunburst Races is truly a community event. Each year, over 700 volunteers dedicate their time and energy throughout the year to welcome runners to our community while providing them with a safe, enjoyable memory that will last a lifetime.
The community’s commitment to Sunburst Races is reflected not just in the hundreds of volunteers who give their time and talents each year, but also in the long-standing sponsor relationships that have developed over the years. Sunburst Races truly depends on these sponsors, and we’re most grateful for their continued support. Learn more about the sponsors and companies that have supported Sunburst so passionately over the years.