The Missouri State Fair may not be for another month, but area runners gathered at the fairgrounds Friday morning for the Firecracker Mile.
Runners from under the age of 6 to some in their upper 70s participated in the annual Independence Day event.
Among the oldest participants was 78-year-old Air Force veteran Ron Schuler, who ran in the open division.
He said he runs a mile five times a week to get ready for the race.
“That and eat properly,” he said. “Every morning I have what is called a nutribullet with all the fruit and vegetables mixed up and I drink that.”
Shuler spent 13 years with the Air Force and recalled a memory from nearly 60 years ago.
“My crew crashed at Whiteman in 1955,” he said. “I was supposed to be on that flight, but I had another assignment. Nine of them got killed.”
Shuler said he’s participated in the Firecracker Mile for 17 years.
“I like the crowd,” he said. “I get to see friends. Some I see once a year when they come here.”
Shuler finished third in his age group and said he plans to continue coming to the Firecracker Mile as long as he can.
“I have to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore,” he said.
Two of the youngest participants were 5-year-old Teddy Papreck and 7-year-old Eliza Papreck.
Their father, Jim, brought them down from Marshall for the event.
“Most races don’t have things for kids so that’s why we come over here,” Jim said.
Jim ran in the open division. Teddy and Eliza were in the PeeWee Dash and Junior Jog, respectively.
Eliza said she enjoyed herself and liked the medal she got at the end of the 300-yard race.
“They made a new one this year,” she said. “They used to be different.”