This year will mark the 25th annual running of the Heart & Sole Road Race in what may be the smallest city in the state of Wisconsin. Pittsville, located in the exact geographic center of the state, hosted the first running of the race on its 100th birthday in 1986. Since that first field of 180 competitors, the event now draws over 700 participants.
This year’s 25th anniversary challenge is to surpass the official population of the city, which according to the 2010 census, peaked at 921.
The race will be held in conjunction with the local Independence Day celebration, marking it’s 50th anniversary this year. A noon Fourth of July parade, carnival, music, ballgames, food, refreshments and fireworks will round out the day.
The road race will kick off the festivities on the evening of July 3, starting and finishing right in the middle of town, near the baseball field in Riverside Park. The same field, surrounded by rides and refreshments, is the site of the fireworks display at dusk on the Fourth.
This cozy small-town event, sponsored by the local Lions and American Legion, is held consistently on the Fourth of July. The race, always on July 3, benefits the local volunteer fire department. The race and parade are held rain or shine. The fireworks were canceled only twice in 50 years.
The road race course is flat and partially shaded. Runners and walkers will simultaneously tackle two- and five-mile out-and-back courses, and will be welcomed by an array of complimentary refreshments, including locally produced Ocean Spray juice products and homemade granola. Age group winners will be recognized and awarded upon completion of the race. A free quarter-mile kids’ race will take place immediately before the main event for toddlers to 10-year-olds.
According to local dentist-running enthusiast-race director Casey John, the ever increasing field of competitors has dictated the step up to electronic timing. That’s pretty high-tech for a community not fully served by high-speed Internet or cellular service.
Local celebrities have graced the event over the years, including the infamous John Moan, of Marshfield, who ran this race into his 90s; American 10,000-meter record holder Chris Solinsky, of Stevens Point, back when he was a high school prodigy; and accomplished runner Arnie Schraeder, who gallops along with his son now instead of pushing him in a stroller.