On Saturday, May 17, over 7,000 runners were laced up and ready to run at the Ogden Marathon. 2,500 runners lined up 26.2 miles away from Ogden’s Historic 25th Street, eight miles east of Huntsville on Highway 39.
Bright and early with perfect weather, the gun sounded, setting off 2,540 runners on an adventure most people would never attempt. Among the elite runners, at least 10 Mountain Green residents and 21 Morgan residents joined in tackling the huge accomplishment.
Seth Neuenschwander of Mountain Green made it across the finish line in the top 100, placing 94th after running a killer 7 minute 28 second pace and finishing the race in three hours and 15 minutes.
The half marathoners began their run at Eden Park, an amazing 13.1 miles away from the finish line. This distance is the most popular and hosted 3,886 runners. In the maze of runners, 39 Mountain Green residents and 51 Morgan residents wore the famous runners bib.
Morgan High School freshman Christian McClellan aligned himself at the front of the pack and hit the ground running. Of the 3,886 runners, he crossed the finish line in 50th place. He didn’t slow throughout the race, running a consistent pace of under 7 minute miles to finish the race in one hour 30 minutes.
McClellan said while finishing the race at that incredible speed was tiring, it was worthwhile. His first experience with running was only last year when he decided to sign up for the Morgan Valley Half Marathon and with no training, he completed the race in two hours.
After that successful introduction to running, he has competed with the high school track and cross country teams. While his mom, Kristy, typically cheers for him at the finish line, this time she was behind him all the way. She completed her first half-marathon in her son’s footsteps.
Chris Vesper of Mountain Green makes this an annual event and finished this year’s half marathon in just under two hours.
Twelve additional runners from Morgan and Mountain Green ran the shortest distance, the 5k, which is 3.1 miles. While it is a fraction of the other races’ distances, it is still demanding. Hank Telford of Morgan ran this distance in just 24 minutes and 17 seconds.
Dr. Jess Hopkin is hoping to complete 14 marathons this year. The Ogden Marathon was the local dentist’s 66th marathon. Hopkin wasn’t the only Morgan dentist to run. Dr. Jim Ellis ran the half marathon, as did his wife Tiffany. These two have completed this run six times and the full marathon once. This year marked their fastest time to date, and while they are happy to see improvement, they don’t feel running is only about winning.
“One of our favorite memories is watching the record-time full marathon winner crossing the finish line at the same time a disabled man pushed in a jogging stroller by his elderly father finished the half marathon. Both finishers were on opposite ends of the spectrum of physical ability, but both had finished, and both would receive the same medal. It was a great metaphor for life,” said Ellis.
Family members completed races together including Stephen Dredge, who completed his first marathon with his 15-year-old son Caleb.
Brothers Chet and Alan Brooks began running together in 2012 and have completed two Ragnars, two Ogden half marathons and plan on running the Morgan Valley Marathon for the second time. The brothers often go for training runs on Saturday mornings around the Milton area, where they stop and say “hello” to their parents Marlin and Sue Brooks and grab a quick drink.
Others chose to run with friends. Tara Low, Janet Pace, Liz Donaldson, Heidi Eriksson, Wanda Adams and Kim Turner, organizers of the Morgan Valley Marathon, ran together. This was Low’s 52nd marathon. Even after all the running it takes to complete that many marathons, she says she never gets bored. Each event brings something new or unique. On this particular occasion, Low became separated from a friend and waited for her to catch up. At a particularly challenging portion of the course, she ran back through the crowd to find her friend to help her through it, making it so she actually ran around 29 miles to complete this marathon.
Morgan County was recently named healthiest county in the state for the fifth year in a row. In celebration of this, Morgan residents will receive a 15 percent off their Morgan Valley Marathon race entry if used before June 1 by using the code: MORGANRUN at http://www.morganvalleymarathon.com. Runners will want to register early, especially for the popular half marathon and 5K, as they are the most popular races.
The Morgan Valley Marathon has lots of extras like free professional race photos, free dinner the evening before and race, bags full of fun gear, in addition to the great shirts. No matter what shape you are in, there is still time to train and participate. For most Morgan Marathon runners, the goal is to finish a marathon, not win a marathon. Just completing a huge task like this brings a sense of accomplishment.
Not everyone who participates in running events such as the Morgan Valley Marathon love running or even like it. Some just realize the health benefits of running or the excitement of being part of an event. The Morgan Valley Marathon clock is ticking down to race day on July 26.