WHEELING - When participants in this year's Ogden Half Marathan Classic take to the course on Saturday, they will notice a slight addition to the number of steps they will take. But don't worry, it is not another giant hill to climb.
Recently, R. "Scat" Scatterday, race director for the popular road race held each Memorial Day weekend in downtown Wheeling, set out to have the race course certified, something that must be done every 10 years as required by USA Track and Field officials. A race course also must be certified each time changes are made to the route.
Last year was the first year of the half marathon race. In prior years, the Ogden race was a 20K event.
Prior to certification, Scatterday had used a computerized vehicle from the West Virginia Division of Highways and measured the course five times.
Scatterday then enlisted the services of Jim Wilhelm, an official certifier and measurer for road races. He and his wife Debbie traveled from Columbus, Ohio, to do an official certification of the Ogden Half Marathon Classic race course. The Wilhelms' work entailed traveling across the entire race course from starting point at 14th and Main streets, through Center and South Wheeling, up and down 29th Street across National Road through Elm Grove, Woodsdale, Fulton, up and down Wheeling Hill, and back to the starting line.
The Wilhelms were accompanied by Scatterday and Wheeling Police Pfc. Josh Sanders who rode atop one of the police department's new three-wheeled motorcycles to ensure everyone's safety during the race course inspection.
The process of certifying a race course involves identifying and marking "landmarks" along the way and taking measurements which Wilhelm does by utilizing a measuring device on his bicycle. Each click of his wheel represents a specific measurement.
After seven painstaking hours and hundreds of calculations, Wilhelm informed Scatterday that the race course will have to be extended another 279 feet and 7.5 inches or 93 yards and 7.5 inches to qualify as a true half marathon.
"Who knew?" Scatterday said when he learned of the race course calculations. "I and everyone else I know thought a half marathon was 13.1 miles. It's not. It's 13.10938 miles."
This half marathon course will officially be certified at 13.1623387 miles, Wilhelm said.
Because of the shortfall, Scatterday and Wilhelm came up with a plan to add the needed amount of feet to the race course to make it an at least an official half marathon. The addition will have race participants travel from Main Street east on 23rd Street down Market Street and west on 24th Street back to Main Street.
"That's the only change to the course and it's in the second mile of the race," Wilhelm commented.
"I have certified at least 70 races and not one had the correct distance ... all of them have been short."
The additional steps racers will take may be just slightly more than required for the half marathon as Wilhelm said he always "rounds up" his calculations to assure the race course is long enough.
The change in the race route occurs early in the day, as runners will turn left from Main Street onto 23rd Street. The course then follows Market Street for a block until 24th Street, at which time the course turns right to Main Street. From there, the course remains the same as last year.
The Ogden Half Marathon Classic attracts hundreds of runners and walkers from around the country and globally. The two-day event also will include a 5K Run and Walk and Half Marathon Relay as well as children's events on Friday starting at 14th and Main streets.
A Torch Relay honoring U.S. Armed Forces both past and present, begins at 4 p.m. Friday in Elm Grove and traverses the last 6 miles of the Half Marathon course. It is followed by the Ogden Tiny Tot Trot, sponsored by Ohio Valley Parent Magazine, and the Ogden Fun Run.
Participants in the 5K Run and Walk will receive a new dry fit style T-short, and a food voucher attached to their race bibs, a perk only provided to Half Marathon racers in previous years. The voucher will be good for one meal from any participating race vendor.
In addition to the Ogden Newspapers, major sponsors for the event are The Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, United Bank, the City of Wheeling, the Ohio County Commission, Project Best and Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration. Race proceeds this year will once again benefit the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley, located at the J.B. Chambers Sports Complex in Elm Grove.
For complete race weekend events and information, go online to ogdenhalfmarathonclassic.com.