Thursday, October 1, 2015

Iron Horse Half Marathon has largest sign-up; 1,450 runners, even more companions expected Oct. 11

This is the first of a series of rotating stories by Midway Messenger reporters about the Iron Horse Half Marathon.

By Mackenzie Clark
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Too many people, not enough space.

That is an apprehension the Midway community is facing as the sixth annual Iron Horse Half Marathon is returning Sunday, Oct. 11, larger than ever. About 1,450 participants are expected and there are questions about where to put everybody. Some people are thrilled about the growth, while others are a little skeptical.

Runners U.S.A. estimates that each runner is accompanied by 1.5 other people, so the Iron Horse race will, temporarily, more than double Midway’s population.

This year's sign-up is the biggest ever. Some in Midway are thrilled about the growth of the race, while others are a little skeptical.

One of the biggest concerns about the race has been having it on a Sunday because it gets in the way of local churchgoers. However, “in general, Sunday morning has a lower impact on the community,” said race coordinator Chuck Griffis, from John’s Run/Walk Shop in Lexington.

The route was switched after the second year, Griffis said, so that the first half of the race, on Spring Station Road, will be cleared before church starts. Griffis said this would ensure that everybody is “out of their way in time for their services.”

The adjustment has “helped us win over the community,” Griffis said. Midway Christian Church, which is in the east half of downtown, concluded, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Griffis said. The church will have an earlier service and then opens its doors for a pancake breakfast.

This is the largest sign-up the race has ever had, which brings another concern: parking. Griffis said the race is always on Midway University’s fall break weekend, which allows more parking spaces. “We can only bring so many people into the community on Sunday morning,” he said.

Chuck Griffis points out route for Midway Messenger reporters.
The Iron Horse can be a “win-win” for Midway, Griffis said, because the great location should make some people want to return after the half-marathon.

This will be a first time in Midway for some. Griffis said about half of the participants come from outside Central Kentucky, and about a third are out of state.

Griffis said the race owes a lot to Midway; “We really have to credit the city of Midway, and the community and the surroundings with the success of this race.” Three years ago, Runners World Magazine named it one of the top 28 half-marathons in the country, and Griffis said that had a lot to do with the “desirable location.”

The first half of the route runs through horse farms, which makes the run more enjoyable. Griffis said runners are a “little less worried about time and competition,” and more focused on taking in the scenery and capturing pictures. He said the atmosphere is very “picturesque,” especially right when the sun is rising at the start of the race. Griffis said he wants this to be a quality experience for the runners and the people of Midway.

The race begins at 8 a.m. Sunday. Griffis said all runners should be finished by 12:30 p.m.

The race will benefit the Woodford Humane Society, which will provide perhaps more than 100 volunteers for it. The City of Midway has received $3,000 in proceeds in each of the last few years, but Mayor Grayson Vandegrift suggested that it make donations to local charities this year instead.

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