More than 1,000 runners and walkers from almost 30 states and more than five countries are training this summer in anticipation of the 26th annual Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon in Parkersburg, W.Va., this August.
The 2012 News and Sentinel Half Marathon is scheduled for Aug. 18, to coincide with the Parkersburg Homecoming, which features live music among other events.
It is the largest sporting event in the Parkersburg area in terms of event size, number of volunteers and length of race. This year it is the Road Runners Club of America Regional Championship.
"This race is a world-class event and records some of the best times in the world," explained Chip Allman, who has been race director of The News and Sentinel races since 2006. "The field is loaded with elite runners from all over the country and world."
Participants have the option of either running or walking the 13.1-mile course, which moves from the commercial area of Parkersburg to its scenic surroundings before looping downtown to the finish line.
Parkersburg resident Lou Molinaro has been involved with the half marathon since it began 26 years ago as either a runner or a committee member, often as both. "It's one of the best race I've ever run," he said. "I've been to a lot of races and talked to a lot of runners, and everyone likes to come to Parkersburg."
For him, The News and Sentinel Half Marathon is a family affair. Over the years he has had as many as 20 family members staying at his house at one time to participate in the event. All four of his children have run the race, and two of his children and a few of his cousins still participate.
The half marathon began in 1987 and later expanded to include a Two-Mile Race, Junior Races and Tiny Tot Trot. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel became the main sponsor of the event in 2002.
The News and Sentinel Two-Mile Race attracts around 800 participants each year, mostly recreational runners and teenagers from the Parkersburg area. Like the half marathon, participants in the Two-Mile have the option of either running or walking the course.
The course is confined to downtown Parkersburg and this year's race begins at 8:10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18.
The youth races consist of a series of age-based Junior Races for children aged 6-11 and a Tiny Tot Trot for children below age five. Approximately 300 area families participate in the youth races each year. The 2012 kids races begin on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 19.
A number of prizes are awarded to participants in The News and Sentinel Half Marathon. Trophies and prize money are awarded each year to the top four overall winners in the men's and women's divisions.
Additionally, prize money is awarded to the top three winners in each age group with a trophy for fourth and fifth place in each age group. Racers also compete for trophies in several other categories: Clydesdale class, athena class, masters, grand masters and wheelchair. All finishers of the half marathon receive a medallion.
Trophies and medals are also available to participants of the Two-Mile Race, Junior Races and Tiny Tot Trot. Each participant in the event receives a race T-shirt, a race bib and a bag with donations and coupons from the event's sponsors.
Chip Allman believes it is the extra services provided to racers that keep people coming annually to participate in The News and Sentinel races. "This race offers more for the money than most races in the country.
With 17 fluid stations on the course and the people-friendly atmosphere, bike patrol and the medical aid personnel, this race is the ideal setting for a great day of safe racing."
Half marathon racers are also treated to a pre-race pasta dinner from 4:30-9 p.m. Aug. 17 at St. Francis Xavier Hall in downtown Parkersburg near the finish line. Half marathon participants receive free entry and two-milers and family members of participants may attend for a fee.
There is also a post-race pizza luncheon on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hall. The meals are a great opportunity for race participants to meet their fellow runners and walkers.
The News and Sentinel Races would not be possible without the work of a great set of volunteers. More than 1,400 people are involved in making the races a successful event that participants look forward to year after year.
For more information and to register for all races visit www.newsandsentinelhalfmarathon.com or call 304-485-1891, ext. 459.