The sixth annual New Albany Walking Classic is close to being another sell-out, according to organizers.

The sixth annual New Albany Walking Classic is close to being another sell-out, according to organizers.

"We still have a few spots left, but we've sold out the last three years," said organizer and event founder Phil Heit.

Heit says the classic sells out because it's a fun event that has great sponsorships and allows participants to get exercise and take home nice prizes.

"This is the best value in the country," he said.

The 6.2-mile walk through the New Albany Country Club area will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 12. The cost to register is $45 and each participant will receive a windbreaker valued at $100. The top five men and women who participate will receive a crystal cup from Tiffany and Co.

Many sponsors will provide food and other gifts on site. The race begins and ends at Market Square, on Market Street.

Heit estimated that nearly 2,500 people would be signed up by this week. Organizers cap the participants at 3,500. Those interested in registering should visit www.newalbanywalkingclassic.com.

Heit said the New Albany Walking Classic is devoted to raising awareness of fitness and not just another run or race held for charity, even though 100 percent of the proceeds go to charity.

"Only a small number of people compete," Heit said. "It's more for health, and for developing a culture and lifestyle of being active."

The event has grown to include even more of a health aspect. The Ohio State University Medical Center will hold its Health Expo the day of and the day before the race, Sept. 10 and 11, at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts. During the event, OSU professionals will provide health screenings and there is an opportunity to meet OSU physicians.

The benefits of the walking classic attract many people from out of state. Heit said organizers track zip codes of the participants and have found only 18 percent are from New Albany, even though the event was originally founded and is organized by the New Albany Walking Club. Last year, there were people from 247 zip codes and 27 different states.

Eighty percent of the participants are women and the average age range is mid-40s.

"This isn't a demographic we sought, it's a demographic that sought us," Heit said.

It takes 500 volunteers to run the event, many of whom come from the village and local schools. The New Albany-Plain Local School District has a link on its website for student volunteers who need to complete service hours for graduation.

Children also can participate in a 1-mile fun walk with Andrea Cambern of WBNS-10TV.

For people like Heit, who have devoted their lives to creating events that promote wellness and health, the rewards are evident on the day of the classic.

"My payoff is to see the people cross the finish line, being healthy and happy," he said. "I've devoted my whole life to health."

The New Albany Walking Classic is part of the New Albany Signature Series, which provides sponsorships for local events through a grant to the New Albany Community Foundation by the Leslie Wexner family.