July 14, 2010

Doug Hawley: Half marathon, football can work

Not even the hectic middle of the football season figures to hinder the excitement anticipated Oct. 16 for the first Dalton Half Marathon foot race.

Although the 13.1-mile race still is more than four months away, there already has been an unprecedented focus, and being the area’s first national race is a key factor. Dalton is one of 16 half marathon sites in a national series sponsored by United States Runners Association.

When many race directors plan races, they check the college football schedules for possible conflicts because those events almost always occur on Saturday.

Regarding in-state college games of most interest to this area that day, there is no earthshaking conflict. Georgia hosts Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech entertains Middle Tennessee.

With the runners competing in the morning and the games slated for afternoon and/or night (depending on the whims of television), they still might could make the games. However, their fatigued bodies might decline the travel. If those runners don’t feel up to visiting Athens or Atlanta, do not despair. Fans attending those games should be able to pull the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets through against underdog opponents. 

Tennessee, with new coach Derek Dooley at the helm, has an open date on the second Saturday in October. The Big Orange will need the break because defending national champion Alabama rolls into Knoxville the following weekend. On the day of the foot race, Alabama warms up for Tennessee by hosting Ole Miss.

If runners can fill their college football needs with a short drive, Chattanooga will present a quality attraction that day and it’s just 30 minutes from Dalton. Tennessee-Chattanooga will host Georgia Southern in a battle of Southern Conference rivals.

UTC was the league’s most improved team last year with a 6-5 record. Tradition-rich Georgia Southern has won six national championships.

Dalton Half Marathon director Dean Reinke, who is based in Winter Park, Fla., already has visited out city at least twice to help coordinate proceedings.

That is quite impressive when you consider that he coordinates the other 15 half marathons around the country as well, ranging from Stockton, Calif., to Worcester, Mass.

They started in February and continue through December.

Reinke, a veteran runner who has been directing these type races for many years, hopes to have about 1,000 runners from 20 to 25 states competing here.

David Sanders is serving as local racing organizer. He and other Carpet Capital Running Club members are handling the logistics, which includes certified measurement of the scenic course that starts and ends at the courthouse.

Brett Huske is solidly in the picture as executive director of Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is always looking for ways to boost the local economy.

Ryan Lamppa, a researcher for Running USA,  said, “At this moment, the half marathon is the hottest distance in America.”

Half marathons grew 24 percent between 2008 and 2009. The number of finishers has increased 131 percent in the last decade, with more than 20 such new races each year in the United States.

Starting later this month, there will be a 16-week training series in The Daily Citizen leading up to the race. This is geared primarily for the newcomers.

For those people who find 13.1 miles too long (walking is permitted), 5-kilometer and 1-mile fun runs also will be available.

Yes, we know that football will have its customary excitement in October. However, you also can expect plenty of buzz concerning the first Dalton Half Marathon.

Doug Hawley, a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years, is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. He can be reached at

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