PARKERSBURG-They come from near and far.
They come in all shapes and sizes and ages.
Who are they? They are the more than 1,000 runners and walkers who will make up today's 26th annual News and Sentinel Half Marathon as well as the 2-Miler.
Photo by Jim Butta
Picking up race packets for today’s 2-Mile race are 7-year-old Olivia Rinard, right, and 9-year old Maybree Rinard. More than 1,600 runners and walkers are expected to compete today in the 26th annual News and Sentinel Half Marathon and 2-Miler.
Photo by Dave Poe
One of the many traditions surrounding the half marathon is the Friday night pasta dinner, a quite popular feature. Enjoying their meal are, from left, Pennsylvania residents Don and Tammy Slusser and John Brockenbrough.
"Registration has been going strong ever since we opened," explained River City Runners and Walkers Club member Tom Kramer. "We put out 300 (registration) forms this morning and they are nearly gone."
One of those who will be lining up for the 8 a.m. start on Juliana Street will be three-time champion Alene Reta. The 30-year-old Ethiopian standout can become the first runner to capture four titles if he can defeat a field that includes 2011 winner, and course record holder, Julius Kogo.
"Of course it (becoming the only four time winner) motivates me," said Reta, who missed last year's race while recovering from a stress fracture. "But, you never know. There are some very good runners here from Kenya and Ethiopia and any of them are capable of winning the race."
One of those is 24-year old Kenyan Philip Mburu.
"My agent told me about this race in West Virginia," explained Mburu, who has run a personal best of 1 hour, 2 minutes and 9 seconds over the 13.1-mile distance. "He told me that it is a very good race, that they really take care of you here, and that the competition would be very good."
Very good is right.
The men's field of elite runners includes nearly a dozen entrants that all have eclipsed the 65 minute mark in the half while the women's field returns 2011 champion Malika Mejdoub, 2009 winner Hellen Jemutai and seven runners who have posted times faster than those posted by the duo when they captured their first News and Sentinel crown.
"This is the No. 1 half marathon race in the country in my opinion," explained 64-year Terry McCloskey. "I've ran it 12 or 15 times, but this is my first time back in three years. I love coming here because the people are wonderful and the race is tough."
McCloskey, the 2011 Road Runners Club of America's male Master of the Year, will attempt to end John Brockenbrough's two-year stranglehold on the Grand Masters title.
In addition to registering for their favorite race, competitors spent time looking through a large assortment of clothes and shoes at the Expo and will be treated to a new experience located at the finish line in the United Bank parking lot.
The Run Happy Cavalcade of Curiosities, a running-inspired carnival experience that has been touring the country has added the News and Sentinel Half Marathon to its list of stops and will offer runners of all ages and skill levels a free running gait analysis.
Finishing off Friday's events was the pasta dinner at the St. Xavier parish hall.
"This is great,'' said Don Slusser of Monroeville, Pa., who long with his wife Tammy makes the annual trek to Parkersburg. Slusser said he has only regret regarding the Parkersburg race and that is he missed the first two because he didn't know about it. As soon as he made his first trip here, he's never missed.
"This is a highlight of our year,'' said Slusser, who also was accompanied by Brockenbaugh. "We bring friends and they always want to come back.''