The phrase eventually became “In the city, by the city foundations, for the city” and is used as the motto for the series of six 5K road races.
According to Welsh, Jeff Drobney, assistant city manager and co-founder of the Grand Prix races, met someone who organizes grand prix races while vacationing in Florida and thought it would be perfect for Kennesaw.
Not long after he returned, Welsh and Drobney started planning.
“Our first step was to find a course,” Welsh said. “Let’s go talk to everyone who is on this course to see if it’s cool. Kennesaw Baptist jumped in and gave us 100 volunteer and supplied a pancake breakfast for the runners.”
Their debut race, the Great Locomotive Chase 5K, in the winter of 2009 drew 400 runners, but they had to endure the hills of Down Moon Road.
Welsh, who is a runner, immediately changed the course to a flatter route for the Swift Cantrell Classic, the spring race that now opens the series. The new course, which is still being used today, starts at Kennesaw Baptist Church, circles Swift Cantrell Park and ends in old downtown Kennesaw.
“The real impetus behind this is to find something fast and flat,” Welsh said. “We have families that come out here and run this together. We also found out that people love running on the same course. It challenges them to drop time on the same course. Those who run four of six races is a Grand Prix finisher.”
Now the Kennesaw Grand Prix is running six races a year all on the same course. The Dream Dash 5K, the third in the series, was held over the weekend. Normally the smallest race of the season, it drew approximately 600 runners.
For the first time, the Faith Cline Elf Trot is being moved to July 12 instead of its traditional December date because the turnout had dwindled over the last couple of years.
The most popular race of the series, The Run for Wounded Heroes, which takes place in August, had grown to 3,000 participants.
The series ends with the Great Locomotive Chase on September 6 and the Garden Gallop on Nov. 1.
The Atlanta Track Club, a sponsor for the event, helped launch the Kilometer Kids program for youngsters ages 5-12. When kids reach their respective racing goals, Welsh said the organization gives out backpacks, water bottles, t-shirts or shoe strings. As many as 50 volunteer coaches from the club help train kids twice a week for an hour to better prepare them for one of the races.
“When the kids age out, they usually come back to coach the younger ones,” Welsh said.