Sports Backers Celebrate 25 Years of Fantastic Fitness Moments

Look wherever you go in Richmond. You’ll see runners. Cyclists. Kayaks on the roofs of cars. This is an outdoors kinda town. Check that, an outdoors fitness kinda town.

The biggest fitness events – the ones that shut down streets to allow thousands to get active together – are organized by the Sports Backers. Over the past 25 years, they’ve made exercise into social events. They have created athletic events that our whole region can enjoy.

Sports Backers 25th Anniversary Party at Tredegar, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016

Sports Backers 25th Anniversary Party at Tredegar on Oct. 21

“We have made Richmond more fun, more energetic, more vital and certainly a more active community,” said Jon Lugbill, the executive director for Sports Backers, as he addressed the crowd at the 25th anniversary party Friday night. “Richmond isn’t like it was 25 years ago, and we’ve played a role in making Richmond one of the most vibrant, athletic, active communities in the country.”

Over the past quarter century, their mission has been “to produce and support nationally recognized quality sporting events and programs that motivate locals and visitors alike to be more active.”

Moonlight Ride

Anthem Moonlight Ride

By now, probably everyone in Richmond (or at least several people they know) has participated in a Sports Backers event. We’re talking about some of the largest fitness events in our region, like the Anthem Richmond Marathon, Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, Dominion Riverrock, Anthem Moonlight Ride, CarMax Tacky Light Run and many more. There have been 781,023 total participants in Sports Backers-organized events since 1998 – not counting 2016’s races.  That figure began with a meager 3,330 participants in 1998 to 74,049 in 2015. That is a lot of active people.

The Sports Backers provided a snapshot of their growth and evolution since their founding:

But the Sports Backers didn’t stop with just creating fun ways to exercise in a crowd. In a recent post to the Sports Backers blog, their “mission has expanded from generating sports tourism in the region to increasing the physical activity of residents from all corners of our community. As we’ve developed and grown, equitable access to fitness opportunities has moved to the core of our mission.”

Sports Backers Kids Run

Kids Run

Lugbill said that Sports Backers has continued to increase and improve their work in the community, partnering with more than 330 organizations, schools and community groups around the Richmond region.

“When the founders first started the Sports Backers, they asked 110 people to put up $500 each to be founding members. And right from the get-go, they knew that this wasn’t going to just be us doing work ourselves, but it was going to how we partnered with other organizations to have a much larger impact.”

Their youth fitness programs were first launched in 2005, beginning with “Fit for Life,” now called Kids Run RVA. Offering fall and spring programs, the “Kids Challenge” program gets an estimated 50,000 kids active. Kids Run RVA features run clubs in 60 different area schools, 39 of them being Title I schools.

The year 2012 brought another two huge leaps forward for Sports Backers. It created Bike Walk RVA to advocate for comfortable and connected places to bike and walk for people of all ages and abilities throughout the region. Among their many accomplishments, their Bike Academies have empowered hundreds of Richmonders to advocate for better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Sports Backers also created Active RVA to help make active living a regional priority. These programs aren’t event driven, but instead help educate and enable Richmonders to advocate for better fitness options for themselves by working to “remove barriers to physical activity and healthy living for every member of our community,” according to their blog.

Filthy 5k Mud Run at Dominion Riverrock Friday, May 15, 2015.

Filthy 5k Mud Run at Dominion Riverrock Friday, May 15, 2015.

I have participated in a few extremely enjoyable events, but my main experience with Sports Backers has been as a reporter and a photographer. I’ve covered plenty of Sports Backers events and I’ve enjoyed them all because most  everyone involved is trying to have fun. From freezing cold rain during the first Tacky Light Run and soaking downpours and blazing heat during Richmond Marathons (and people running a 5K before intentionally crawling through mud at the Filthy 5k Mud Run) – participants, volunteers, and organizers have their focus on enjoying themselves no matter what. For most, they’ve dedicated too much time to train for the event to not make the best of it.

Don’t get me wrong, the weather was great for most of those events, but the ones with the worst conditions tend to leave a greater impression. There are great life lessons to be learned. Seeing participants work so hard to persevere, watching friends and fellow competitors encouraging each other to endure – those moments are the most inspiring and the main reasons why it has always been a pleasure to cover Sports Backers events.

I’ve also volunteered with the Sports Backers on a handful of their events and have gotten my own thrills from the opportunity to be an ambassador for Richmond. Smiles everywhere. Happy people. Especially for their signature events like the Richmond Marathon and the Monument Avenue 10k, many of the participants are from out of town and volunteers are positioned to help build a great first impression for our region’s hospitality. And there is always so much gratitude from the participants – very rewarding for volunteers.

It has been a great first 25 years, let’s all help Sports Backers keep the Richmond region moving forward!

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Sports Backers announce first-ever CarMax Tacky Light run

The Sports Backers announced today the first annual CarMax Tacky Light Run will be held on Saturday, December 14, 2013, at 6 p.m. This six kilometer (3.72-mile) holiday-themed fun run takes one of Richmond’s favorite traditions – tacky holiday lights – and meshes it with a celebration of an active lifestyle.

“The trend we’re seeing in the industry is that running is becoming more and more of a social sport. People want to share their experiences with friends and family, both physically and through social media outlets,” said Sports Backers executive director Jon Lugbill. “With all of the energy, lights and decorations out on the course, the CarMax Tacky Light Run will perfectly mirror that trend.”

The CarMax Tacky Light Run starts and finishes in Midlothian Mines Park, looping participants by some of the most festive homes in the adjoining Walton Park neighborhood.

An untimed event, the CarMax Tacky Light Run is fit for families and groups alike. Team rebates will be offered to encourage group participation. Teams with six to 14 members will receive a $3 rebate on all entries, and teams with 15 or more members will receive a $7 rebate on all entries.

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Sports Backers to announce new event

When the Sports Backers introduce a new event, Richmond usually responds by turning out in droves. That’s been the case with the Monument Avenue 10K, of course, which has grown into one of the largest road races in the U.S. The Anthem Moonlight Ride seems to set a new  participation records every year. Riverrock is hugely popular in May, and last year’s inaugural event, the Martin’s Tour of Richmond drew close to 1000 participants (with this year’s pre-race entries tracking ahead of last year’s). So, when the SBs roll into Midlothian Mines Park at 10 a.m. Thursday to announce a new winter event, expect Central Virginians to take notice.

The Monument Ave. 10K is one of the largest road races in the country. Credit:

The Monument Ave. 10K is one of the largest road races in the country. Credit:

Sports Backers PR maven Jackie Stoneburner didn’t want to divulge too much, but she said the event will be held December 14th at 6 p.m. The press release she sent out last week said that SBs’ executive director Jon Lugbill will be joined at the announcement by Bill Nash, CarMax Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Administrative Services, Daniel A. Gecker, Midlothian District Supervisor, and Katie Bozzo, of the Walton Park Neighborhood Association. The release also said that “visuals” at the announcement would include “Christmas carolers and holiday decorations.”

We’ll see what the Sports Backers have in store (check here on Thursday for the announcement). Chances are, whatever it is, it’ll be well-attended.

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Fifth annual Henricus Dauber Dash set for June 29

The June 29th Henricus Dauber Dash, a 5.5-mile race through Henricus Historical Park and the Dutch Gap Conservation area, is back for its fifth year. Say the Sports Backers: The race is packed with plenty of mud, dirt, and obstacles along the way to keep you challenged while having the filthiest time of your life!

Credit: Sports Backers

Credit: Sports Backers

“Henricus Dauber Dash has become a valued annual tradition for running and adventure enthusiasts in the Richmond area,” said Charles L. Grant, executive director of Henricus Historical Park.  “We look forward to welcoming runners and spectators to our outdoor living history museum surrounded by the Dutch Gap Conservation Area and inviting them back for Publick Days this September.”

The run features a course that starts at the Citie of Henricus and goes around the trail loop of Dutch Gap.  Several defying obstacles are incorporated throughout the course:

·         The Wattle Wall: Wall of hay bales

·         The Vulture Scuttle: High Stepper

·         The Rolfe Rampage: Mud Pit

·         Sir Thomas Dale’s Dip: Run through the James

·         The Pocahontas Picnic Pounce: Picnic table climb

·         Graveyard Crawl: Army Crawl

·         The Lagoon Lap: Run through lagoon

·         Mt. Malady’s climb: Run on the rocky ridge

·         Henricus Hill: Hill Climb

·         Cypress Point Stink Hole: Muck through the channel

·         The Wattle Wall: Wall of hay bales

·         Buttercup’s Mud Pit: Mud Pit

There is a 1-mile Mud Guppies Kids Run, for kids ages 8 – 14 at 11 a.m.  This course also features its own engaging obstacles and finishes through the same grimy mud pit as the adults.

All participants will receive an event T-shirt and post-race food and drinks upon crossing the finish line.  Prizes will be awarded to the overall male and female winners.  Awards will also be presented for “Best Costume” and “Best Mud,” so remember, the muddier – the better.

Online registration is available through Thursday, June 27 until 11:59 p.m.  The current entry fee for the Henricus Dauber Dash is $30 while the entry fee for the Mud Guppies Kids Run is $10. Both prices set to increase June 1. For further event details and registration information, visit or call (804) 285-9495.

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Shuttles offered for shorter Gran Fondo rides

Credit: Sports Backers

One of the complaints I’d heard from people thinking about doing the Sports Backers’ new cycling event — the Martin’s Tour of Richmond — was that they weren’t sure, for the shorter distance rides, how they’d get back to the start point to get their cars. Well, the SB’s must have heard the same complaint because they’ve done something about it.

Take a FREE shuttle back to the start location where your vehicle is located. Due to limited space, the shuttle will only be for participants, not bicycles. Bikes are not allowed on the shuttles under any circumstances. When you finish the ride at the Richmond Raceway Complex, check your bike in Bike Parking, leaving the number plate on your bike. The shuttle will take participants to the starting location of both the 29- and 59-mile courses. Drive your car back to the raceway to retrieve your bike. You will be able to retrieve your bike by showing the bike parking attendant your bib number corresponding with the number plate on your bike. Shuttles will begin at 2 pm. All bicycles must be picked up from bike parking by 8 pm.

In other Tour of Richmond news, Sports Backers PR manager Jackie Holt told me that, as of Monday, they were about 500 people entered in the race over all three distances. She said that wasn’t quite where they thought it would be, but the hope is that this free shuttle offering will bring out more riders interested in the shorter-distance rides.

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