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Bastille Day Race – Fenton’s Midsummer Classic

This Saturday, July 14th, marks the annual return of a mid-summer Genesee County Road Race classic – The Genesee County Habitat for Humanity Bastille Day Races, in Fenton. The 17th edition of the race offers a 5k or 15k distance for runners to test themselves over, and since its inception, the Laundry, the landmark Fenton eatery, has partnered with the race to provide French Bread (usually baguettes), kegs of root beer, and an all-around picnic-style feel to the post-race festivities.

Both courses are of interest to the avid and beginning road racer alike. The 5k is a nice course that spends most its time in downtown Fenton. The 5k start and finish is at the prominent gazebo park adjacent to city hall and in between the course meanders through town and climbs a surprising amount between the 1.6 and 2.2 mile marks as the course heads south of town on East St. Runners and walkers alike will do well to conserve enough energy to tackle that portion, although once the turn is made from Jayne Road back towards town via Leroy, a great net-downhill finish awaits to bring tired racers home at blistering speeds (well, at least comparatively blistering to the preceding mile). There, at the Gazebo, the post-race spread, family, and friends await the triumphant 5kers.

The 15k course has gained no small amount of notoriety through the years. The course heads south of town via Hartland/State Road to hit some of the more impressive paved hills in the area. Denton Hill, just before the 8 mile mark, gets the lion’s share of attention from racers, and rightly so: perhaps the area’s most challenging paved hill, the main section climbs 157 feet over 800 meters at an average gradient of 6%. Grades towards the top max out between 12-15%. Long story short? It’s a brutal hill to hit at mile 8 of a 9.3 mile road race.

But Denton Hill is not the only hill 15k racers have to contend with. Sizable climbs on Westbound White Lake road, Southbound Carmer Road, and Eastbound White Lake Road – amongst others – give the 9.3 mile course a whopping 532 feet of climbing in total. This humble race reporter considers 50 feet of climbing per mile run in training to be a substantially hilly effort, so racing Bastille with its average of 57 ascending feet per mile definitely makes its presence felt on the legs.

Both distances are great mid-summer tune ups towards larger goals, with a great post-race atmosphere to boot. Those runners planning on running the Crim 10-miler can almost guarantee their pace/mile will be faster at Crim than the Bastille 15k, despite its own notorious hills and longer distance, so finishers in Fenton on Saturday will have a good checkpoint for their Crim aspirations. The 5k similarly is a good fitness check – its 2nd mile largely uphill makes it tougher than the average race, so a good time at Bastille’s 5k bodes well for similar efforts elsewhere. Throw in the delicious bread and root beer, the friendly folk who gather in the park, and the Art Walk through Downtown Fenton that follows the races, from 10 am to 8 pm, and one has ample reasons to race, celebrate, and enjoy Downtown Fenton the entire day!

17th Annual Bastille Day Races

15k: 7:45 Start

5k: 8:00 start

Race Link: https://www.geneseehabitat.org/bastille   (includes race maps, sign up link, race info)

Strava.com 15k Course Profile: https://www.strava.com/routes/14241196

Strava.com 5k Course Profile: https://www.strava.com/routes/14241602