There is nothing more democratic than a long distance running event.
Joe Jogger can compete in the same race as the elite athletes in the sport. He won't win, but he shares the same experience: The hills, the weather, the pain, and the satisfaction of finishing after giving it the best you were capable of that day.
Saturday was the 23rd running of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon. Over 1 thousand runners, walkers, and wheel chair athletes accepted the challenge of the 13 plus mile run through the city.
Alene Reta won the men's half marathon here for third year in a row. He keeps coming back because he loves the course. He told me it's the best half marathon that he runs. You find that alot of the field agrees with that sentiment. Many runners, and not just locals, come back to the News and Sentinel Half Marathon year after year.
Why? It's the people. The people behind the race, the volunteers, and the people of Parkersburg..
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel stepped up and took over as title sponsor for the half marathon when its' future was in the balance. Their commitment, both financial and personnel wise, has kept the half marathon an elite event. Race Director Chip Allman works tremendously hard year round to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as it does.
For every one athlete taking part in the half marathon, there are at least 3 volunteers. These are the people who man the water stations along the race route, register the runners, prepare and serve the paste dinner, paint the signs, direct the traffic, and do all the things necessary to make the race a success. The runners are told, if you have any questions, if there's anything you need, just ask one the smiling ever present volunteers that are there to help. Allman told me that the volunteers ARE the race. Without their help it would be impossible to have it.
My vantage point for the half marathon is in the back of a pickup truck.. It's the media vehicle from which WTAP and the News and Sentinel reporters can document the race. The truck, along with a police escort, leads the field through a 13 mile journey.
Along the entire route, people turn out to show their support. They set up lawn chairs in their yards, hold up signs, and just show their appreciate for the runners..
Then in the final stages of he race, hundreds of people line the streets, clapping, and shouting encouragement to the runners. Not just the leaders but ALL the runners as they complete their challenge.
People love to complain about what's wrong with Parkersburg.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon is something that's right.
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