Drake Relays’ Grand Blue Mile Goes Virtual


DES MOINES, Iowa – Drake Relays week is here and with some changes due to the pandemic. This year, the Grand Blue Mile that would typically take place on Tuesday is a week-long virtual event that started Sunday, April 18 and goes through Sunday, April 25.

Organizers say participants have all week to complete the mile, whenever and wherever they want. They’re calling it “Your Race. Your Pace. Your Mile.”

“It’s a chance for the community to really embrace the spirit of that event, but do so on their own ability,” Chris Verlengia, Grand Blue Mile co-race director and senior brand marketing manager for Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, said. “So you don’t have to be elite to participate in this event, it really is perfect for families and friends of all ages and abilities.”

While the in-person events for the public will be missed, Verlengia said the virtual event has allowed them to expand their reach. So far, 1,800 people are registered and 30 states are represented including 150 communities across Iowa.

This isn’t just a mile run or walk, it was created to encourage healthy habits.

One aspect of the event is the “Set the Pace Challenge” in partnership with Iowa Healthiest State Initiative. Executive Director Jami Haberel said that’s an opportunity for a community with the most participants to win $10,000 to support improvements that promote physical activity.

“It’s really an opportunity to increase awareness around the importance of physical activity, but also celebrating ways for people to just get moving,” Haberl said. “Doing this together is really important that we can reach across all the 99 counties we can reach with the communities. We can engage schoolchildren. We can also engage just individuals within communities of all sizes, whether it’s Des Moines or even small communities like Odebolt who was the winner last year.”

People are able to register online for the Grand Blue Mile through Sunday, April 25. 

In addition to the virtual run, there will be a few in-person events happening Wednesday night at
Drake Stadium. That includes USA Track & Field Men’s and Women’s 1 Mile Road Championships, Iowa Kidstrong Celebration of Champions, and the Beautiful Bulldog parade.

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