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2020 Grand Blue Mile goes virtual

To ensure the health and well-being of all participants, officials from the Drake Relays announced the move to an all-virtual Grand Blue Mile for 2020. The news follows the postponement of the in-person event earlier this year.

The virtual event kicks off Sept. 29 and runs through Oct. 7. All previously registered participants will receive an email confirming the status of their registration and outlining the multiple options available to them as part of the format change.

​​​​​​​Additional information, including a comprehensive FAQ, is available at

Grand Blue Mile postponed

Our top priority is the health and well-being of our participants and spectators. As we continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, new information and guidance from city, state and national officials regarding the potential impact to the safety of large crowds gathered at events has mandated the postponement of the 2020 Grand Blue Mile to a future date.

When it becomes evident community events no longer pose a threat to public health, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Grand Blue Mile organizers will collaborate with local officials to identify a new event date and communicate plans and procedures to all 2020 registrants and local media.

In the meantime, additional information, including a comprehensive FAQ regarding the postponement, is available at

Statement regarding COVID-19

Our top priority is the health and well-being of our participants and spectators. As such, we are continuing to closely monitor the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, including related information and guidance from city, state and national officials regarding the potential impact to the safety of our event. If a decision is made to delay or cancel the 2020 Drake Relays, Drake Road Races, Grand Blue Mile or any related events, we will issue appropriate communication to all event registrants and local media.

USATF awards Men’s and Women’s 1 Mile Road Championships to Grand Blue Mile through 2023

Grand Blue Mile officials from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Drake Relays have announced the USA Track & Field (USATF) one-mile road championships will remain a part of the annual Grand Blue Mile through 2023.

The prestigious USATF 1 Mile Road Championships elevate the elite-level competition of the Grand Blue Mile and will annually attract Olympians and world championship participants from across the country to vie for a national title and share of the $30,000 prize purse.

“We are honored and privileged to welcome back the USATF 1 Mile Road Championships through 2023,” said Chris Verlengia, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s senior brand marketing manager and Grand Blue Mile co-race director. “By extending our longstanding partnership, USATF has cemented Grand Blue Mile’s status as the definitive showcase for America’s best milers, and we’re humbled to have hosted more 1 Mile Road Championships than any other race in the nation.”

Early entrants for the 2020 USATF 1 Mile Road Championships at Grand Blue Mile include defending men’s champion Tripp Hurt and 2018 champion Riley Masters. In the women’s race, the 2018 Grand Blue Mile champion, Emily Lipari, will join 2019 runner-up and three-time champion Heather Kampf.

“Like the Drake Relays, the Grand Blue Mile has become a destination for the world’s greatest athletes,” said Blake Boldon, Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays. “As we look to the next decade of this special event, we’re proud to solidify our partnership with Wellmark to bring America’s most accomplished middle-distance runners, alongside participants of all ages and abilities, to Downtown Des Moines.”

In 2019, more than 30 track and field stars competed for the national title and share of the prize purse at the Grand Blue Mile. Hurt won the men’s championship with a time of 4:04. The women’s championship, and new women’s course record, was captured by Nikki Hiltz in a time of 4:30.

Join the Relays Wellness Challenge

Back for a second year is the Relays Wellness Challenge — an employer-based team competition to promote a healthier Iowa. Points will be awarded based on participation in the Drake Road Races on April 19 and the Grand Blue Mile. Participating companies will compete in three categories based on their size: small (5 to 50 full-time employees), mid-size (51 to 500 full-time employees), and large (more than 500 full-time employees).

Points will be awarded based on participation and completion of events. Employees of enrolled companies will also receive one point for volunteering at either event or at the Relays Health & Fitness packet pick-up expo on April 18. Finishers will receive: two points for the mile, two points for the 5K, three points for the 10K and four points for the half-marathon. The winning team in each division will be publicly recognized and receive a traveling trophy to celebrate their achievement.

To date, more than 37 companies have pledged to support the 2020 challenge, with many more employers primed to enroll in the coming weeks.

To enroll your organization at no cost, email or call 515-271-1957.

Set the Pace Challenge returns in 2020

Grand Blue Mile officials also announced a continued partnership with the Healthiest State Initiative (HSI) for the return of the Set the Pace Challenge. The challenge encourages Iowa communities to develop sustainable, healthy habits throughout 2020 — starting with participation in the Grand Blue Mile on April 21.

As part of the challenge, the community with the highest percentage of its residents participating in Grand Blue Mile — measured by the number of registrants for a given ZIP code against its total population — will be awarded $10,000 to use on a project that promotes safe and accessible places in which to be active, such as a park, playground or trail.

“We are proud to bring another year of the Set the Pace Challenge to communities across the state,” said HSI Executive Director Jami Haberl. “Whether you live just down the road from the Grand Blue Mile race course or a two-hour drive from the metro, we’ve seen communities of all sizes rally together to accomplish one goal — creating a healthier hometown.”

The 2019 Set the Pace challenge winner, Odebolt, used their award to make critical improvements to their community pool that acts as a gathering place for residents. To watch the video and learn more about the project, click here.

Register today

Youth and adult registration for the Grand Blue Mile is open, with all proceeds supporting school-based wellness programs in association with Iowa Kidstrong and the historic Drake Relays.

2020 Grand Blue Mile registration opens with $10 flash sale

Registration for the 11th annual Grand Blue Mile on April 21 opens Feb. 11 with a $10, two-day flash sale, officials from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Drake Relays jointly announced. This deeply discounted price is available for all ages through Feb. 12. Join thousands of runners, joggers and walkers in downtown Des Moines for America’s second-largest one-mile community race.

“Since its inception, Grand Blue Mile has had a tremendous and demonstrable impact on the health of our communities,” said Chris Verlengia, Wellmark’s senior brand marketing manager and Grand Blue Mile co-race director. “The event has encouraged more than 40,000 Iowans to get moving and embrace simple, healthy habits, because it serves as a springboard for families, friends and neighbors to come together, set a goal and share the thrill of crossing their own finish line.”

“Grand Blue Mile enters its 11th year positioned as the second-largest community road mile race in the nation,” said Blake Boldon, Director of the Drake Relays. “From the beginning of our partnership, Wellmark and the Drake Relays committed to making this event accessible to Iowans of all abilities. We’ve held fast to that promise and look forward to hosting a record number of finishers again in 2020.”

The $10 flash sales ends promptly at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 12, after which regularly priced registration is $15 for youth and $20 for adults. As part of Wellmark’s commitment to improving the health of Iowans, all proceeds benefit Iowa Kidstrong school fitness programs and the historic Drake Relays.

Grand Blue Mile to reduce carbon footprint

New this year, Wellmark and the Drake Relays are working together to emphasize sustainability and reduce the event’s environmental impact. Grand Blue Mile is seeking to become the first event in Iowa to be certified by the Council for Responsible Sport (CRS) — the international authority for environmentally conscious participatory and spectator sports. CRS-certified events, including the NCAA Final Four, MLB All-Star Game and USATF Olympic Track & Field Trials, among others, are some of the world’s foremost examples of responsible sport in action.

“As part of the certification process, we’re working diligently to assess all aspects of Grand Blue Mile and identify opportunities for improvement,” said Boldon. “Going forward, participants can expect to see a reduction in single-use plastics and printed materials, with an eye toward water conservation as well. These simple measures, combined with additional new and innovative ideas, will result in an even better Grand Blue Mile experience for all our participants.”

“Wellmark has a proud history of being a good steward of our natural resources,” said Verlengia. “Having served the state for more than 80 years, we recognize our responsibility to think sustainably and embrace the opportunity to shape the next decade of Grand Blue Mile through this certification. We’re excited to create a benchmark for reporting our performance improvements year over year, and hope this effort creates a model for other events to aspire to as we aim to raise our collective consciousness.”


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