Getting in the Zone with AutoZone and Memphis in May Great American River Run – Memorial Day Weekend


Date: May 28, 2016

Start Location: Tom Lee Park, Memphis TN

Half Marathon Start Time: 7:00 am

5K Start Time: 7:30 am

Race Course Map:


Hashtag: #MIMGARR

Sponsors: AutoZone, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Nike, BlueCross BlueShield, Breakaway Running, Kroger, Memphis Health + Fitness, Metropolitan Bank, Michelob Ultra, PowerAde, United Capital

Charitable Partner: Wounded Warrior Project

At first, a half marathon and 5k road race may not seem to go hand-in-hand with Memphis in May International Festival. Do barbecue and rock concerts really mesh with water bottles and running shoes? After talking with the folks at Memphis in May International Festival and presenting sponsor AutoZone, we say, “YES!!”

“The decision to add something participatory and health-oriented was relatively easy,” says James L. Holt, president and CEO of Memphis in May, who shared that the board and senior management had looked at the increasing interest in fitness oriented activities in the Memphis area, especially with the millennial generation, and decided the best way to reflect our city was to add a run. And, in typical Memphis in May fashion, they went big with their idea – creating both a half marathon and a 5k for their inaugural venture. Both events start and end at Tom Lee Park, the Festival’s mainstay home, and each will showcase the Mississippi River with live entertainment along the routes and a rocking after-party with food, beverages and a concert featuring the Dead Soldiers and the North Mississippi Allstars. The Festival continues the “go big” philosophy with medals for every finisher in both events, as well as complimentary entry into the inaugural Memphis in May Memorial Day 901Fest later that afternoon.

The first year fitness event isn’t only about the party; Memphis in May executives noticed a change in our community and wanted to reflect that in the festival programming. And that is where Great American River Run presenting sponsor, AutoZone, comes into the picture. AutoZone is a decades-long sponsor of Memphis in May events, and when asked to continue their involvement this year, they didn’t hesitate to step up in support.

“Our organizations share a deep, long-standing commitment to Downtown Memphis and to creating experiences and resources to drive engagement and build community,” says Jenny Turner Koltnow, Director of Communications and Community Relations, Customer Satisfaction. “Few events bring people from all walks of life together like the Memphis in May International Festival—and MIM does it for a month! We have music with Beale Street Music Festival and food with the World Championship Barbeque Contest; the Great American River Run now brings an endurance and wellness event to engage individuals, families and organizations, regardless of fitness level, to celebrate our beautiful community.”

AutoZone lends more than their name to their sponsorship. They have actively encouraged AutoZoners—their employees–to run or walk in the event. This isn’t new for AutoZone: Being and staying healthy is a part of their culture both in Memphis and around the globe. Teams of AutoZoners regularly participate in walks and runs together. The Great American River Run gives them another opportunity to drive engagement and include family and friends. From Memphis in May’s perspective, the AutoZone partnership does much more than support the race.

“My wife, friends, family and my AutoZone family are my support group: they celebrate fitness milestones with me, cheer me up, support my efforts to be healthy and keep me accountable,” says AutoZoner Manuel Zavala.

“It’s great to be able to work and train Downtown, while enjoying the view of the Mississippi River, Mud Island Park, and Tom Lee Park. I’m thrilled we have an AutoZone team participating in The Great American River Run to take full advantage of the Downtown scenery.”

“We believe AutoZone’s commitment to health and fitness should serve as an example for other companies in our region. Join in, create a team to walk or run this year. We’d love for every major company to send a group.” Says Jim Holt, CEO of Memphis in May International Festival.

AutoZone’s deep commitment to the Greater Memphis community is part of their culture. AutoZone opened their very first store in 1979,, and even after 37 years of growth and expansion to fifty states and operations on four continents, the lion’s share of their philanthropic dollars stays in Memphis. AutoZoners initiate and lead dozens of activities and projects to help the community—from arranging volunteer projects to leading 5K walk teams. AutoZone’s leadership in the automotive industry extends to civic leadership at home, and they embrace this responsibility and opportunity.

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