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Chester County Press

'Run like it's 1989': Kennett Run celebrating its 30th anniversary

04/16/2019 12:10PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

In 1989, the World Wide Web was invented, although it took years before most fully understood how it worked. Brick by brick, the Berlin Wall came down, and the cultural phenomenon that would later contribute to our vocabulary – a television program known as “Seinfeld” – was first aired.

In 1989, runners paced around tracks, pathways and roads wearing headbands and brightly-colored attire, resembling extras in a VCR fitness video.

In 1989, a small group of enterprising leaders in Kennett Square began talking about starting a running event that would raise annual funding for dozens of local organizations. Now, 30 years and more than $1 million in funding later, the Kennett Run, in preparation for its 2019 race on May 11, recently decided to go back in time.

In celebration of the special anniversary of the race – which was first run on April 21, 1990 – the Kennett Run organizers created a marketing campaign called “Run like it's 1989,” that celebrates not only a long-gone era, but honors those whose commitment to their community has become an annual Kennett Square tradition.

The mastermind behind the idea was Kennett Run Race Director JJ Simon, who kicked off the theme in January at the Kennett Area YMCA, during early registration for this year’s event.

“As we were signing people up, I kept remarking that people should be dressed like it’s 1989, and so we brought in some music from the period to hype up the theme, as well,” he said. “It was a big success, one that was appreciated by everyone from the 50 year-old dad to the 8-year old girl. So I thought, ‘Let’s make this our theme, get out our old headbands and tube socks and go completely retro.”

With the assistance of Two Stones Pub and Fig Industries, Simon and Board members Becky Devestine, Steve McManus and Gail Chase posed for a photograph in the cloak of the period, and the marketing campaign was underway. (The campaign advertisement appears in the Spring 2019 edition of Fig Kennett.)    

“The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that I wanted to promote the theme to everyone involved,” said Simon. “Since the start of the campaign, I’ve seen three or four other running events in the area whose themes are also diving into the past. Many of us – the Baby Boomers and the Gen-Xers -- are getting nostalgic for those pre-internet and cell phone days.”

While the campaign has a little fun at the expense of some past fashion faux pas, it’s also a nod toward the Kennett Run’s origins, and those who were responsible for making the annual race a reality, said Kennett Run Charities President B. Christopher Daney.

“The Kennett Run brings out local runners and walkers, but it also raises the awareness of the many non-profit organizations and the work they do for so many people,” Daney said. “It’s also reflected in what we as an organization do as our primary mission – to give back to those organizations, and subsequently, our community.”

In ceremonies held at the Genesis Healthcare atrium lobby on Oct. 11, 2018, Kennett Run Charities, Inc. awarded nearly 50 local organizations a total of $66,000, which included a $15,000 grant that went toward trail improvements in Anson B. Nixon Park that included landscaping, asphalt paving and the elimination of erosions and drainage problems. Daney gave a lot of credit to Kennett Run volunteer Mark Piacentino, who worked with a local contractor to engineer the project.

“Anson B. Nixon Park is a focal point of Kennett Square, and it’s used all year round by so many people and events, so it gets a lot of wear and tear,” Daney said. “The trail project was something that Kennett Charities really wanted to put its time and effort into, in order to make the park safer for runners, walkers and anyone else who visits there.

“One can go out there now and see these improvements. This is our way to give back to the community.”

Over the last few months, the 2019 Kennett Run Facebook page has been slammed with posts from several runners entered into this year’s race who want to get into the act, so Simon is anticipating that the 1989 theme will be seen everywhere on this year’s course. He’ll even give out awards for best dressed individual; husband-and-wife duo; and group, and a limited number of tube socks and headbands will be handed out during the registration period.

“Many are writing that they’re currently rummaging around, looking for their old running clothes,” he said. “I’m also encouraging our board members and volunteers to dress like it’s 1989. It will be slightly ridiculous, but a lot of fun.”

To learn more about this year’s Kennett Run and to register, visit

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].