By Chris Whitfield
They came mostly from the Southeast and a few from as far away as Colorado and South Dakota. Some ran Saturday’s half marathon for the first time, while one Dalton podiatrist used it as a tune-up for the real Marathon race in Greece later this month.
What the runners in the inaugural Dalton Half Marathon found were near-perfect running conditions, a course that was fast and a race that was about as error-free as any could imagine for a first-time event. Now, after months of hard work by countless organizations and individuals, already race director David Sanders has his sights set on expanding the event to bring more and more people to area next fall.
“I would love to have a couple of thousand runners,” Sanders said. “I think that would have a huge impact on our community if we could have people come in from out of town to generate some revenue for our local business. I see us still doing this five years from now and it being one of the best events in the South.”
The first running of the half marathon, as well as the 5K and 1-mile fun run, drew a total of 972 registered participants. Cohutta’s Dean Thompson was the overall winner with a time of 1:16:14, edging Atlantan Victor Breedveld, who finished 12-hundreths of a second behind. Emily Hardin of Hunstville, Ala., was the overall female winner, finishing in 1:27:24. The course, the event and the community support drew raves from the runners.
“It was great,” said 2010 Dalton High graduate Fernando Morales, who finished eighth overall. “When all of the people that came out today come out to see the sport that you love, you feel admired by the community. This was a great event, and it will just get bigger from here.”
Dr. Spence Misner has run in marathons in Chicago, Detroit, New York and Atlanta. Earlier this year, he entered his name for a chance to run the original route that Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians in 490 B.C. Now, after “winning the lottery,” Misner will travel to Greece to run in his footsteps on the 2,500-year anniversary of Pheidippides’ run. Misner was proud to see Dalton making a big step into the world of competitive running with its own event.
“This has been a totally incredible event,” he said. “It brings recognition to the community in a very positive way. Events such as this and the bike racing earlier this year shows Dalton to be a very heath-conscious community and in tune with the environment.”
Another big motivation for some of the runners in the event — whether in the half marathon or in the 5K — was the work of the Varnell-based Run for God organization. Eight churches from around the area had “teams” running in the event, led by Salem Baptist member and Female Master’s winner Dee Goodwin. Goodwin, who has been one of the area’s most accomplished competitive runners, said she doesn’t run in many events anymore, but her involvement in Run for God was the spur to enter.
“I am more happy I think for all of the Run for God members who trained so hard and ran this event than I am for what I did today,” Goodwin said. “Endurance training is a lot like our walk with God. It is sometimes difficult and has ups and downs, but it is so worth it in the end.”