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Parkersburg Half Marathon lining up for Aug. 20

PARKERSBURG — A local event impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years is making a triumphant return in August.

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon and 2-Mile Races will be staged the morning of Aug. 20.

“We’re bringing the race back,” said Art Smith, an organizer of the race that has been held for more than three decades.

The race is managed by co-directors Smith, John Huelse, a former race director, and Steve Browning, who has run in every Half Marathon since its inception and is a decades-long assistant director.

It will be the same 13.1 mile course, the same start and finish lines and the same massive effort by organizers and volunteers to present the best race possible, Huelse said.

What is changing is the race will now have a more regional appeal to runners, he said.

“The major change will be that the race will be targeted more to the local and regional runners and less of an emphasis on the international elite runners,” Smith said.

The News and Sentinel Half Marathon is the Road Runners Club of America’s Eastern Regional Championship.

“That’s why we’re emphasizing more of the local tri-state area,” he said.

The race is a massive single-day event in Parkersburg, drawing thousands of people to the downtown, Smith said.

The city of Parkersburg, a sponsor of the race, contributes security. The Wood County Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Police also are involved on the state highways and unincorporated areas where the course travels.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce is pleased to see the race’s return.

“The Half Marathon is a wonderful event for the city and for the whole Mid-Ohio Valley,” said Joyce, who pledged the city’s contributions from the public works, police and fire departments as long as he’s the chief executive.

The race is good for Parkersburg, Joyce said.

“It’s good for our downtown, hotels and restaurants,” Joyce said. “I’m excited as the mayor to have it back.”

While he’s more likely to cover more ground these days hunting or fishing, he fondly remembers the races he was in as a participant.

“Those days are long gone,” Joyce said.

The Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau is eager to begin promoting the Half Marathon in the larger cities including Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Columbus, said CVB President Mark Lewis.

The race generates overnight stays in hotels, he said.

“That’s our stock in trade here at the CVB,” Lewis said.

The first meeting of the all-volunteer half marathon committee was held on Tuesday.

The several dozen members of the committee organize the various aspects of the race, such as water stops, registration, medical care and post- and pre-race activities, Huelse said.

However, the race would not be so successful without the hundreds of volunteers on race day who, for example, hand out water or offer post-race care to the runners, he said

“They’re the ones who make the race,” Huelse said.

Anyone or any organization or group interested in volunteering can call Smith at 304-485-1891 ext. 281 or email him at asmith@newsandsentinel.com.

The Half Marathon and 2-mile races have been held since the early 1980s. It was sponsored by Camden Clark Medical Center before being taken over by the newspaper.

The races were not run in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus that impacted almost every aspect of life in the country and around the globe.

“No race was worth the risk we would have put people through,” Smith said.

While the projection is for much-improved pandemic conditions by August, participants, on and off the course, can take whatever precautions they want, Smith said.

“We will follow every recommendation made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Smith said.

Among the new attractions will be the option for a virtual running of the Half Marathon and the Two-Mile race, Browning said. Participants in the virtual events will receive instructions by email and their race materials in August.

“What’s interesting is the concept of virtual racing was developed during the pandemic,” Browning said.

Virtual participation allowed people to remain interested and involved, although they were not physically in a race, according to Browning.

“People wanted to continue being involved,” he said.

Browning has ran every Half Marathon for more than 30 years. He was served on the race committee since the early 1990s.

Registration is now open for the race. Participants can register online or race entry forms can be downloaded from www.newsandsentinelhalfmarathon.com/.

The entry fee is $60 before June 15, $67.50 between June 16 and July 15 and $75 after July 15. Virtual fee is $65 by Aug. 15.

Members of the River City Runners and Walkers get $5 off if registered by July 1.

Entry fee for the Two-Mile Race is $22 before July 15 and $25 after July 15. Virtual fee for the Two-Mile is $15 by Aug. 15.

The wheelchair start will be 7:50 a.m., followed by the start of the Half Marathon at 8 a.m. and the Two-Mile at 8:10 a.m.

A pre-race pasta dinner will be held from 4:30-9 p.m. Friday at the St. Francis Xavier Hall near the finish line at Sixth and Market streets. The post-race pizza luncheon is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the church.

Sponsors of the race include Highmark West Virginia, the city of Parkersburg, Kuraray, WVDrug Testing Laboratory, United Bank, CAS Cable, Solvay, WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, Waste Management, Dr. Pepper, Snapple and Gatorade and the River City Runners and Walkers Club.

Additional information about the race is on the entry form.

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