Adrenaline filled the cool, morning air as runners gathered to compete in the Patrick Henry Half Marathon Saturday, Aug. 24.
“It is the perfect day for running,” said Michael George, race director.
Since 2007, this race has called Ashland its home with Poor Farm Park serving as the starting and finishing line until 2010 when the race moved its headquarters to the campus of Randolph Macon College.
Even though this race has only taken place in Ashland for seven years, it has been at the heart of the Virginia running community for many decades.
“The Richmond Roadrunners have been putting on a half marathon this time of year for about 30 years now,” said George.
After runners outgrew the half marathon’s former location at a battlefield in Varina, The Richmond Roadrunners and the Richmond Sports Backers decided to bring the race to the heart of Ashland.
With a course map that spanned 13.1 miles of rural Hanover roads, runners were able to experience a different landscape than would be expected from a typical long distance run.
“It was different to run by cornfields when I’m used to running past buildings in downtown Richmond,” said Jackie Woods, runner in this year’s Patrick Henry Half Marathon.
The majority of participants in this year’s competition were training for the 26.2 mile Richmond Marathon that will take place in November. Half marathons such as this usually serve as a mid-way point for runners who are in the midst of training for full marathons.
“This is half-way through our training course. It is the time to test our progress, see how we’re doing, and see if we need to reassess our training,” said Woods.
Athletic competitions such as this do not only benefit the runners involved; they also help raise funds for charities and community organizations, which allows runners to compete for a cause that far exceeds their own personal goals.
“The Roadrunners and Sports Backers have joined together to create a special grant program where 100 percent of the proceeds and any donations are going to help schools that have running clubs throughout the region,” said Jon Lugbill, executive director of Sports Backers.
The 2013 Patrick Henry Half Marathon boasted a considerable number of participants, totaling 1,240 runners on race day. With marathoners ranging in age from 13 to 78, the diverse groups of participants were not without their struggles Saturday. Racers had to endure hills, heat, and physical hardship in order to pass the finish line.
“I didn’t do too bad for having a baby six months ago,” said Jessica Cooley, who had just completed her seventh half marathon.
Christopher Mills, of Arlington, came in first place with a time of 1 hour,10 minutes followed closely by Rich Saunders, of Williamsburg, who came in second with a clocked time of 1:14.
At the end of the day, rankings did not hold much significance, for each runner who crossed the finish line was promptly congratulated by a large crowd of cheering spectators. This year’s race day ended with runners basking in the afterglow of their half marathon achievements.
“Endorphins and positive vibes, that’s what this is all about,” said Patrick Hughes, half marathon runner.