On March 19, participants in the Shamrock 4-Miler will take their marks at the starting line, waiting to run the first race of the Run For Your Life Grand Prix Series.
The series is 11 races that take place from March through October at various locations throughout Charlotte. Runners who participate in at least seven races are eligible for awards and prizes at the Run For Your Life awards banquet in October.
The Shamrock 4-Miler, which will start and finish at Stonecrest Shopping Center on Rea Road, has open registration and no cap on the number of participants. In 2010, 1,100 participants ran.
Ashleigh Lawrence, events manager for Run For Your Life, said this year she anticipates between 1,200 and 1,300 participants.
"This is actually one of our smaller Grand Prix races," said Lawrence. "The numbers get larger as the races season continues, especially near the end, when some of our elite runners are trying to get top scores."
Registration began in February and will continue until the day of the race. Participants are encouraged to register early. Early registration is $25; registration is $35 on race day.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the Levine Children's Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network. Lawrence said Run For Your Life's relationship with the hospital and nonprofit is longstanding.
"The (hospital and nonprofit) are so localized, so people know who they are," said Lawrence. "People take particular ownership in Levine; it's their children's hospital and they want to help in any way they can."
Many participants help not by running but by volunteering. Lawrence said they've never had a problem getting volunteers to help when they know Levine Children's Hospital and the Children's Miracle Network are involved.
"Most people come out and say, 'Yes, what can I do to help?'" she said.
Although many elite runners participate, the race is not exclusive to serious runners. Families, children and mothers with jogging strollers are encouraged to participate.
For children who do not want to run in the 4-Miler, there is a Leprechaun Jog of a few hundred feet.
Registration for the jog is $5, and children who participate will get St. Patrick's Day hats.
"Really, the overall goal of the event is to have fun," said Lawrence. "Of course, you have your elite runners who show up to improve their times, but we structure the races so the families can come out, too."
Lawrence said the event has a social atmosphere, where runners come for a good time.
"A lot of the runners know each other, so it's a nice place for people to come and hang out," said Lawrence. "The Shamrock tends to be a fun race because of theme alone."
The event begins at 6:45 a.m. for those registering on race day.
Mothers with baby joggers will begin running at 7:58 a.m., and the rest of the participants will follow at 8 a.m. The Leprechaun Jog is at 9 a.m. Registration can be completed online or at any of the three Run For Your Life retail stores.