The running of marathons is a serious sport, and even an obsession for many of its participants. Even more popular is the half marathon, with a distance of 13.1 miles. In 1990, there were an estimated 330,000 finishers in half marathons. By 2013, that number ballooned to 1.96 million finishers, making the half marathon the fastest growing standard distance among U.S. road races. With its immense popularity, what better way to bring people to Owensboro and bring awareness to a cause than by hosting a race? That’s exactly what Wendell Foster plans to do when they hold their inaugural half marathon on March 23, 2019.
Known to many people locally, Wendell Foster is a private, non-profit organization that serves over 1,300 adults and children across 34 counties in Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Their mission is to empower people with disabilities to realize their dreams and potential. And what better way to spread that mission than to bring in runners from all across the region who will be racing to benefit the organization.
And though the race is local in the sense that it will be held here in Owensboro, Wendell Foster hopes to attract runners from at least a 200 mile-radius to enter the event. That means athletes from cities like Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Indianapolis and St. Louis are expected to register for the race.
John Gleason, Community Outreach Specialist at Wendell Foster, said that the initial idea was to hold the half marathon last year, but the organization thought that hosting a 5K (3.1 miles) first would be a perfect warm-up to gage community response. Their goal for that race was to register 300 runners, and they exceeded that bar when 306 athletes came out for the 5K. As an added bonus, in addition to raising awareness for Wendell Foster, the race became a fundraiser for the organization, since the participation was higher than expected.
Building on the momentum of their 5K, Wendell Foster has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the upcoming half marathon is an even bigger success. In addition to the usual t-shirt given to most racers, Wendell Foster will also provide registrants with a hat, bag, finisher medal, and sticker for their car to commemorate the event. The scheduling of the race is also ideal, providing participants in the Boston Marathon with a timely warm-up, with that event taking place less than four weeks after the Wendell Foster Half Marathon.
In addition to the race, the organization will host an expo at the Owensboro Convention Center on the eve of the half marathon. That event will include vendors such as major athletic apparel companies so that runners can browse booths prior to the race to try on or purchase shoes, clothing, and running gear. Local businesses are also encouraged to set up booths at the expo, and can get more information by contacting Gleason at 270-852-1486.
With so many enticing factors, Wendell Foster plans to draw 1,000 runners to the March 23 race. Aided by the City of Owensboro and the Owensboro Police Department in closing roads and directing traffic, they have accounted for all of the potential challenges that can come with such a large event.
If you want to be part of the Wendell Foster Half Marathon, registration is now open at wendellfoster.org/halfmarathon. Early bird registration is $65 until January 1, 2019, and runners can register as late as March 22 for $85 at the expo. Owensboro Living readers are eligible for an extra discount by getting $5 off registration with promo code OBOROLIVING, which is valid through December 31, 2018.
Although the race is still several months away, over 100 participants had already registered as of the middle of September. The half marathon has also attracted several sponsors, including Canteen/John Conti, Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline and Legends as silver sponsors, as well as Robert Gleason, Jr. and Be Real Sports as bronze sponsors. Wendell Foster is still accepting sponsors for the event, and it will take full support from the community to make this event a true success.