The city of Huntington took off at a sprint 7 a.m. Sunday for the Marshall-St. Mary’s Marathon. A record number of participants stood at the Third Avenue starting line to run a 5k, half marathon or a full marathon.
Jim Duke, coordinator of the event, said he was determined to attract more runners while keeping the tradition of Marshall University alive.
“We are trying to increase participation by giving more to the participants,” Duke said. “This year, we’ve got a surprise at the finish line. We are still trying to incorporate the tradition of Marshall University, so this isn’t just a regular marathon, it’s a community event.”
When runners enter their last lap they are given a carnation as they arrive on campus in remembrance of the 75 lives lost in the 1970 plane crash that killed the football team, its coaches and several prominent citizens. The carnations were laid on the edge of the Memorial Fountain.
With the rise of participants comes a rise in the need for volunteers. Camille Ramsey, faculty member in the College of Education and Professional Development, was the head of Marshall student volunteers. Ramsey said she was satisfied with the large turn out of student volunteers, but their most important duty is one of safety.
Members of Alpha Sigma Phi and other students helped guide the runners through the streets of Huntington. Student volunteers also tended hydration stations to make sure the runners had plenty of fluids during the marathon.
The winner of the 5k was 13-year-old Jackson Gibson from Milton, West Virginia. He completed the 5k in 35 minutes. Gibson runs cross country and track and plays basketball at Milton Middle School. He said he was very excited to be the first runner to cross the finish line.
“It feels really good, and I put in a lot of practice every day,” Gibson said. “I ran every day, got in my long distance days and recovery days.”
The winner of the half marathon was first-time marathoner Eli Gerlach from Columbus, Ohio, and a graduate of Marshall. He is a professional runner who competes in 5ks all over Columbus and has a goal of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“I just felt like running my first half marathon, and I feel pretty good,” Gerlach said. “I just didn’t have it towards the end, but I feel pretty good, got to be happy with my first marathon.”
The winner of the full marathon was Gary Krugger from Flag Stone, Arizona. Krugger has competed in more than 250 full marathons. The cold weather was rough on the Arizona native, but he battled through.
Duke said he was very satisfied with the overall outcome of the race with the participants and volunteers. There were a lot of runners that traveled great distances to be a part of a local tradition.
“My job is like an orchestra conductor—just brining all the moving parts together— and if I do my job well the pieces of the puzzle fit together,” Duke said. “And most importantly is when people finish with a smile on their face. That’s when we know we did a good job, and I can go home and rest up for another year.”
Shalee Rogney can be contacted ay [email protected] edu.