Friday, October 9, 2015

Iron Horse Half Marathon, making its sixth run on Sunday morning, tries to keep the community happy

This is the latest in a rotating series of stories about the Iron Horse Half Marathon. 

By Nick Jones
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecoimmunications

The annual Iron Horse Half Marathon is returning to Midway and the race will again be run with the community in mind.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, Midway will welcome about 1,450 runners who will have the opportunity to see 13.1 miles of some of the finest horse farms and pastoral beauty Kentucky has to offer. Race organizer Chuck Griffis of John’s Run/Walk Shop met with the Midway Messenger staff to preview the sixth event.

Race organizer Chuck Griffis discusses the route of the race.
“We really have to credit the city of Midway and the community and the surroundings with the success of this race,” Griffis said. “We want to make sure it is a good experience for the participants and we also want to be a reasonable impact on the community.”

With the Iron Horse Half Marathon being held on Sunday morning, though, it presents a potential traffic interruption for local churchgoers.

The route of the race, mainly Spring Station Road and Weisenberger Mill Road, will be closed from 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Sunday, limiting access to parts of the town during certain hours. But with the Iron Horse Half Marathon having such a positive impact on the community each year, two churches in Midway have adapted to get involved with the event. 

“The Midway Christian Church has their church service at 7:30 in the morning and then opens the community portion of the church at 8 a.m. and hosts a pancake breakfast for the families of the people who are there for the race and it helps them raise money for the Midway Ministerial Association,” Griffis said.

This year for the first time, the Midway Baptist Church will also have an 8 a.m. breakfast, canceling its early morning service and having one service at 10:45 a.m.

Other organizations benefit from the race, too. Proceeds go to several local charities that help make the event so special. The Woodford Humane Society, a non-profit animal adoption center in Versailles, is the main beneficiary. Griffis praised the organization for providing hundreds of exceptional volunteers over the years to help make sure the race is run smoothly.

As suggested by Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, other donations will go not only to the city but other charitable organizations chosen by race organizers: the Midway Area Ministerial Association will get a donation as a result of the race, and the Versailles Police Department and the Woodford County Sherriff’s Department will receive an increased contribution to support funding for their “Shop With a Cop” program that provides Christmas gifts for poor children.

Both of those charities can expect a donation of around $1,500, Griffis said.

Midway is a town that historically boasts a reputation of being an attractive tourist destination, and the Iron Horse Half Marathon will only add to that. Nearly a third of the participants come from outside the state and about half from outside Central Kentucky, Griffis said.

“We feel strongly that we bring a number of people into the community, expose them to the business community of Midway – to the downtown, to the restaurants, to the shops – and hopefully at some point they’ll return,” Griffis said.

Running USA estimates that for every racer in a half marathon, 1.5 guests join them in support of the race. This means the population of Midway will more than double on Sunday, something Griffis said is not universally welcomed by local residents.

“To say that everyone in the community would welcome us, that would be pretty optimistic and pretty unrealistic on our part,” Griffis said. “But we do want them to know that in return for accommodating us, we will try to do everything we can to make it less of an inconvenience for them.”

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