By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Pottstown >> Runners competing in the 2016 Pottstown Half Marathon can cross the finish line as state champions.
The 13-mile running event returns for its second year to the borough, and about 400 people have already signed up. Sly Fox Track Club director Chris Bayless, race organizer, said there are people coming from 15 other states including Florida, Texas and Illinois.
The long-distance run is also this year’s Road Runners Club of America Pennsylvania Championship race. When men and women finish first for specific age categories at the half marathon, they will also be crowned as state champions.
“The Road Runners Club of America is the oldest and largest national association of running organizations dedicated to growing the sport of running since 1958,” stated the club’s website.
The Pottstown Half Marathon begins 7 a.m. July 16 from College Drive near Montgomery County Community College. The registration fee is $80. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Operation BackPack, a Pottstown based charity where backpacks are filled with food and materials then sent out to qualifying students. More information about the half marathon and online registration is available at slyfoxtrackclub.com/the-pottstown-half-marathon. There will be an awards ceremony after the race at 10:45 a.m. in Riverfront Park. Then a post-race party begins 11:30 a.m. at the Sly Fox Brewery which is located at 331 Circle of Progress Drive.
The first ever Pottstown Half Marathon came to the borough last year as a training opportunity for long-distance runners, Bayless said. He heads a local track club which shares its name with the Sly Fox Brewery. The club helps train athletes for track and field events as well as hosting several running races throughout the year.
Bayless said several of his members requested a half-marathon run since there aren’t many long distance races available in the immediate area. He decided to have the race in July so marathon runners could use it as a halfway point in their training before fall.
Just like last year, the 13-mile course will spotlight several landmarks in Pottstown such as the former Bethlehem Steel Complex, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center and The Hill School. The finish line will be on the Schuylkill River Trail at Riverfront Park.
Since race participants will run past Pottstown neighborhoods, Bayless is asking residents to help out by providing water stations or sprinklers people can run through. The half marathon route is available at slyfoxtrackclub.com/the-pottstown-half-marathon and people can look to see if they’ll be a flock of runners passing their home.
“We’re trying to get the community more involved,” Bayless said.
He also wants to make sure the course for next week’s race will be clean and presentable for runners. A group of volunteers are meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at Riverfront Park to clean trash from the race route. More than 50 people collected about 50 bags of trash last year.
“We kind of unofficially adopted a highway,” Bayless said.
The volunteers are split into groups then each group walks about a mile of the course while picking up trash. The Pottstown police department will patrol during the cleanup to make sure volunteers are safe. People that are interested in being a volunteer for Thursday’s cleanup should email ScottArmstrong@slyfoxtrackclub.com.
The half marathon is of course the big race but there are also several events happening before next Saturday morning. There will be a race expo and packet pickup for registrants Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Sly Fox Brewery. Also on Friday, runners will have an opportunity to participate in the Pottstown YMCA 5k and kids fun run. Bayless said the 5K was added this year as a short distance alternative to the half marathon.
“It gives more opportunity for the community to be involved. A lot of people are intimidated by the half marathon distance,” he said.
The Sly Fox Track Club began a couch to 5k training program in May. The Pottstown YMCA 5K is basically their graduation night, Bayless said. He said the event also allows children to get involved this year with the fun run.
“I think we will have a pretty decent turnout for that,” he said.
The YMCA 5K begins 7 p.m. Friday from Montgomery County Community College. The race will happen rain or shine. All pre-registrants will receive a T-shirt. Participants will also receive a free beer at the half marathon post party Saturday. The fee to register is $30. For more information visit slyfoxtrackclub.com/wp-content/uploads/YMCA-5K-2016.pdf or email Slyfoxtrackclub@gmail.com.