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Runners continue a longtime Madison tradition despite gloomy weather by taking off at the start of this year’s Crazylegs Classic, raising money for the UW Athletic Department.[/media-credit]

Annual race and Madison tradition the Crazylegs Classic drew nearly 20,000 athletes and fundraisers Saturday, despite the gloomy weather.

Crazylegs, held every spring in Madison, raises money for University of Wisconsin Athletics, and is put on by the National W Club organization and other contributors.

According to the Crazylegs website, three UW enthusiasts, Tom Grantham, Ken Sparks and Rich Backus, came up with the idea for the race in 1981 to raise money for UW Athletics. The first race was held in 1982 with 676 participants, the website said.

National W Club Executive Director Terry Murawski said the race typically draws 20,000 people every year, this year with just under the norm.

“I can’t say how many participants are students, but we market heavily to the university community,” Murawski said.

He said the race for runners is around 8 kilometers long, just more than five miles. According to the Crazylegs website, the running and wheelchair participants start at Pinckney Street and East Washington Street, while walkers start at State Street and Mifflin. All participants finish near Camp Randall Stadium.

UW senior Bailey Ferdler said her participation in Crazylegs was her first race ever, as she just started running this past year.

“It was definitely interesting to say the leas,” Ferdler said. “I never thought I would be doing this ever in my life. It made me feel good for sure, even though the weather was a little lacking.”

Ferdler said each participant paid a fee to participate, $30 for pre-registering or $35 on the day of the race, and participants could run or walk the different race courses. Ferdler said she ran with her sister, who has participated in Crazylegs in the past.

She said it was important for her to race, because she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it after so much practice. Additionally, she said the funding provided to UW Athletics through the race is extremely important.

“It brings the whole campus together,” Ferdler said. “But it’s not just students. There’s such a mix of age and everything. It really brings Madison together.”

She said there was a large student presence at the race, though the variation showed how the race made people “get out there.”