By Jeff Nations
The Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department thought it had identified a need within the running community when it started making plans for the inaugural Battlefield Half Marathon.
Races like the annual Apple Blossom 10K, the Thanksgiving 5K and a host of other smaller events dotting the calendar have always been well attended by the area's running community. One thing was lacking, though -- a true long distance test.
"There's a huge running community in Winchester, with the Apple Blossom 10K," said Battlefield Half Marathon race director Andrew Keefauver, a program supervisor for Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department. "We run a Thanksgiving 5K that draws about 700 runners. Running has just become huge in this area."
To capitalize on that interest, plus provide something new in the form of a long-distance race, the FCPRD started making plans for the Battlefield Half Marathon. The race, which begins just inside Kernstown Battlefield in Winchester, is scheduled for Nov. 8.
The start line is located on the battlefield, but the 13.1-mile race will be run on hard surfaces along roads surrounding the area. Runners will follow a course that loops through the city before heading back toward the battlefield to finish in the Creekside shopping center. The semi-flat course, along with the fully paved surfaces, holds the promise of fast times for runners. The course is open, meaning runners would have to contend with traffic, but Keefauver said the FCPRD is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to make it a closed-course race.
"We've reached out to VDOT, and they're looking at traffic patterns," Keefauver said. "We're waiting on VDOT's approval to close the course."
Keefauver said that even if the race does remain an open course, there will be ample race day staff, police and volunteers available to keep the runners secure.
The decision to stage a half marathon instead of a full marathon came down to demand as well.
"The half marathon is one of the more popular distances right now," Keefauver said. "Entries for half marathons have more than doubled in the last four or five years."
Since the Battlefield Half Marathon is a new event, many runners might not have the race on their calendars. Keefauver said the FCPRD has been working hard to get the word out, and so far the results have been encouraging.
"It's definitely getting around," Keefauver said. "We're about four months out and we already have about 70 runners signed up, and four relay teams. This being the first year we're holding this event, we're shooting for around 200 runners. So to be where we're at right now, we think that's phenomenal."
The half marathon isn't the only race scheduled for the event. A half-marathon relay, consisting of four-member teams in three divisions (male, female and co-ed) and a two-mile kid's race for ages 8-14 are also set to include more runners. The half-marathon race is scheduled for an 8 a.m. start, with the kid's race going off at 11:30 a.m.
The half marathon will award cash prizes to the top finishers. The first overall male and female will win $1,000 each, with $750 to the runners-up and $500 for third. The Master's Division winner will pocket $250. Age division winners will receive a plaque, and all race finishers will earn a medal.
To help runners gear up for the grueling distance, the FCPRD has been offering running clinics leading up to the race. Runners R.U.N.?, a clinic for ages 15 and up, is scheduled to begin its second session on Monday. The clinic is tailored for intermediate runners who want to run five to eight miles a day, with the class meeting twice a week. Session three, for advanced runners, will increase their mileage to reach 13.1 miles. That clinic begins on Sept. 20 and runs through Nov. 1.
The FCPRD is also offering a class on proper nutrition for training. Led by certified health coach Debbie Jeunette, the one-day class (Aug. 9) will offer general tips on eating clean and choosing foods for energy, when and what to eat, proper hydration, nutrition strategies for race preparation and recovery and eating plans and recipes for peak performance.
The race day will also feature a festival atmosphere, with live music, concessions and activities for children planned as part of the event.
"It's coming together," Keefauver said. "For the first year, we've got some good things going on."
For more information on the Battlefield Half Marathon or to pre-register, visit the FCPRD's website at http://www.fcva.us/departments/o-z/parks-recreation or call 540-665-5678.
Contact staff writer Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com