Saturday, October 12, 2013

Iron Horse Half Marathon, doubled in size from its initial running, will start at 8 a.m. Sunday

By Holly Brucken
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The Iron Horse Half Marathon, to be held in Midway this Sunday, has doubled participation since its conception in 2010.

Named 21st out of the top 28 half marathons in the United States by Runner’s World Magazine, the 13.1-mile event has grown rapidly. Between 700 and 800 runners participated in its first race. That number increased to 1,500 entrants this fall, according to the race coordinator Chuck Griffis, who represents John’s Run/Walk Shop in Lexington. Last year’s event had 1,240 entrants and 1,000 finishers.

The race kicks off at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, starting and finishing on South Brand Street in downtown. Runners will go to Spring Station, back through town to Weisenberger Mill, then back to Brand Street. (Click on image for larger version)

The race started when John’s Run/Walk Shop in Lexington saw the need for a locally sponsored race. “We were asked five years ago to help with a group from out of town to help with the Lexington Half Marathon,” said race coordinator Chuck Griffis. After helping with that race, the team from John’s came up with the Iron Horse Marathon, an event that would be organized and executed locally.

Griffis said many races such as the Lexington Half Marathon have little benefit to the communities where they are held, because the organizers come from outside of the community. “These types of events should be more beneficial to the community,” he said, adding that the race also stands out because it is produced by an organization with roots in running, rather than an outside cause.

The organizers of the Iron Horse Half Marathon chose to move the event from Lexington to Midway in 2011, and think one of the most valuable assets of the race is its location. “The beauty of the course is its rural location in Midway,” said Griffis, who highlighted not only the scenic attractiveness of the course, but also the support that comes from the community.

In 2011, Midway citizens were concerned that the event caused parking and traffic complications, because it occurs on Sunday morning, when many residents attend church. Such problems have been resolved. This year, parking should not be a concern, because the race is being held during Midway College’s fall break, and participants will be able to park on campus.

Griffis can boast a positive relationship with members of the Midway community. Mayor Tom Bozarth said of last year’s race, “It was very well run.”

Organizations in Midway host events surrounding the race. For example, the Midway College cross-country team will host a pre-race dinner Saturday, Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in the McManis Student Center. The profits of this event benefit the cross-country program. Midway Christian Church will serve a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. on Sunday, for spectators to enjoy while waiting for the runners to start, come back through town or finish.

"We are drawing in more and more of the community," said Griffis. The Iron Horse Half Marathon returns the support by investing some of its earnings in the community. A portion of the proceeds will be given to the Woodford Humane Society. Last year, John’s Run/Walk Shop donated $2,500 of the proceeds to the city of Midway, which used it to buy software for the cemetery. The Woodford Humane Society received $7,500.

More information about the race can be found at www.ironhorsehalfmarathon.com. Here's a map of the entire route and another version of the detail map (click on image for larger version):

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