PARKERSBURG - The News and Sentinel Half Marathon has proven during its 28 years that it is one of the most organized, well-run races in the country. The reason that the 13.1-mile race has earned that reputation is because of the hard work and dedication of a committee now headed by veteran director Chip Allman.
Allman has been associated with the race as a committee member and runner for the last 25 years. "Although I have never been a great runner, I enjoyed the competition of running with and against some of the best in the country and world. To me that is what sets this race apart from any other race in the state," said Allman.
"I feel this race has always had an elite field second to none. If you look at our course records, Julius Kogo (1:01:46) set in 2011 and the women's record of (1:10:19) set in 2010 by Mare Dibaba. You will not find those times in any half marathon in the United States except for a couple completely flat courses down South. I have always taken a lot of pride in being part of what I feel is one of the best races in the country."
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg News & Sentinel Half-Marathon committee member Keith Roberts, left, spray paints part of the Market Street finish line through a stencil with other committee members, Sharon Marks, center, and race director Chip Allman.
Allman faces many challenges as race director. HE tends to many details that most people take for granted and never think about unless they are not done.
Details like bidding on the RRCA National Championship starts in September two years before the race is run. The 2015 national championship race, that Parkersburg will host, was bid on in September of 2013.
Other details include providing proper bathroom facilities for runners and on-lookers, procuring a sound system for the start and finish, securing the Smoot Theater for the awards ceremony, electricity for the finish and start line, permits for using the state roads, tents for medical and numerous other details that the 30 half marathon committee volunteers do to put on this race.
Allman's duties as director are made easier because of the experienced half marathon committee that is in charge of the more than 30 special areas of the race. Some examples are organizing the pasta dinner on the night before the race, registration, transportation, banners, awards, start line, finish line and water stops.
"Without the best efforts of the committee this race would not happen," Allman said. "One thing that I found out a long time ago is that all of us on the committee represent a tooth on the gear that turns the wheel. If one tooth fails, the whole wheel stops."
One of the most difficult jobs that Allman faces each year is securing and putting together an elite field of runners for the race. The task starts around the first week of June. The fact is many of the Kenyans, Ethiopians and Russian athletes speak little or no English does not make this an ordeal easy and at times can be frustrating.
"But when I stand at the start line on race morning and look at the many athletes from all over the world that have chosen our race to participate in, it makes it all worthwhile," Allman said.
This year's race is starting to take shape. During the race committees meeting on June 26, most of the key personnel reported that everything is going well and anticipate no major problems.
According to Allman, eight elite athletes are competing this year. That will include the defending American winners last year, Aubrey Moskal and Nik Schweikert.
Allman anticipates having 35 to 40 elite caliber runners at race time on Aug. 16.
The committee is in charge of two other races that weekend. Sharon Marks is in charge of the Two Mile Race and Marchell Allman takes care of the kids races. Both have done a tremendous job of building up these two events.
The Two Mile will likely surpass the half in terms of numbers this year. More than 1,000 participated in 2013. The Kids Races had nearly 400 entries and the numbers continue to grow this year.
Allman became director of this race because he is an avid runner for the past 25 years. He enjoys talking and being around people. "This race brings the whole city together with its great volunteers, sponsors and spectators that come out to watch their family members, friends and a world class field endure 13.1 miles of one of the best races in America," Allman said.