ANDY HARR, WINNER OF THE CLARION RIVER HALF-MARATHON
IN 1:09:43.
CASSANDRE L. REED PHOTO

WEATHER PERFECT FOR 17TH ANNUAL
CLARION RIVER HALF-MARATHON

BY CASSANDRE L. REED

COOKSBURG, PA--The temperature was perfect and the rain stopped just before the start of the Clarion River Half-Marathon held April 7 in Cook Forest State Park.

More than 445 athletes participated in the picturesque 13.1-mile race along the river, including two wheelchair racers and 53 runners in the two-mile Fun Run.

"It's a good, hard, long run," said race organizer Alice Thurau, a marathoner who participated in the 2000 Olympic trials in South Carolina. She also won the women's division of the half-marathon the first year before becoming an organizer. "People who run the Pittsburgh Marathon like our race because it's a good distance to get your sense of pace."

First place winner in the men's division was Andrew Herr, 35, of Pittsburgh. This was his third consecutive Half-Marathon win.

"The weather was definitely better," said Herr. "The race is always set up really well. I plan to come back next year. I was really surprised that [second place runner] Dan Lesser was so close. I was a little scared since there normally isn't someone that close behind me, but it was a beautiful race."

Lesser finished in 1:09:58, just 15 seconds behind Herr.

 

ELLEN ROH, FEMALE CLARION RIVER CHAMPION IN 1:30:54.
CASSANDRE L. REED PHOTO
Placing first in the women's division was 25-year-old Ellen Roh, also of Pittsburgh.

"I knew that I was having an off day, so I ran for a second or third place ranking. I was glad to win first!" Roh said. "It was such a beautiful race and I had a great time."

Not all racers were in their 20s and 30s. Richard Blaskiewicz, 64, of Pittsburgh, placed fourth in the 60-69-age category with a time of 1:43:22.

"It's great. I was surprised I did this well! I wasn't going to run, but I wanted to better my time," he said. "The race was just beautiful."

Organizers never know who will show up for the race. Local celebrities, including Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and KDKA weatherman John Burnett, have run the half-marathon, and Don Slusser, a top local runner from Pittsburgh, participates every year.

 

MARK GRAHAM (RIGHT), WHEELCHAIR WINNER, WITH RUNNER-UP
JEFF DELLOVADE.
CASSANDRE L. REED PHOTO
Also making an appearance at the race in previous years was an Abe Lincoln impersonator and Marathon Sam, a dog.

"There were about the number of runners that I expected," said race organizer Keith Hileman. "We've been doing this for quite a few years, but there were still some scary moments. One was when I lost track of the timer and the pace car, with only a few minutes left before the starting gun. We finally found the pace car in time and after that things went smoothly."

The course is described as flat to gently rolling. However, Hileman warns runners that at the 12-mile mark, there's a 100-foot elevation.

"It's not difficult, but after racing 12 miles it's tough," he said. "You can be running along, feeling pretty good, then you get hit with that. We like to tell them to be prepared."

There is never a lack of community involvement. Organizers estimate 75-100 volunteers are needed each year to run the water stations available every two miles, direct parking, help with registration and the finish line, and clean up afterwards. Several local civic groups, churches, and school groups help out and some use the event as a fundraiser for their organization.

Free massages administered by local therapists are also available to runners after the race.

Runners compete in 10 age divisions. Cook Riverside Cabins in Cook Forest donates a weekend stay for the male and female winners of the Masters category. Overall first place winners receive a one-night stay at the Clarion River Lodge or Gateway Lodge. A handcrafted mug is given to the top three men and women, the first five places in each division, and the three top tri-county (Clarion, Forest, or Jefferson counties) finishers. Ribbons are awarded to all Fun Run finishers.

Some people choose to walk the race course, so organizers encourage them to begin before the start of the half-marathon. Walkers receive a race T-shirt, although no prizes are awarded.

For more information about the Clarion River Half-Marathon, visit the Clarion River Runners' Web site at:
www.clarionriverhalfmarathon.org.

Cassandre L. Reed is a sophomore at Clarion High School. She was a race volunteer for this year's event.