Eighth annual Walking Classic steps off Sept. 16
Competitors take off from Market Square at the start of the New Albany Walking Classic on Sept. 13, 2009. The eighth annual event is Sept. 16.
Organizers of the New Albany Walking Classic on Sept. 16 compare the reputation of the popular event to one of the world's foremost road races.
"This is to walkers what the Boston Marathon is to runners," said Kristin Ferguson, marketing director for Healthy New Albany, a nonprofit organization that helps organize the event. "We have people from 30-some states and we've done no national advertising. It's all word of mouth."
Walking Classic founder Phil Heit said the event has sold out each year.
About 2,000 walkers have signed up for the eighth annual Walking Classic, and more corporate sponsorships are coming in, Heit said. The event is cut off at 3,000 walkers, which makes it the largest event of its kind in the nation, he said.
He said last year's Walking Classic attracted participants from 34 states and 250 ZIP codes.
This year, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center agreed to be the event's first title sponsor, which will "allow us to do more for the walkers," Heit said.
Heit said walkers pay a registration fee but they receive a fleece jacket and are fed after the race by many local restaurants. This year, Subway will help market the classic, with more than 100 restaurant locations sharing nutrition information with customers and potential walkers.
The city of New Albany is preparing to provide the 3,000 walkers with a safe route.
Police Chief Mark Chaney said this year is challenging because the Walking Classic will offer 10K (6.2-mile) and half-marathon (13.1-mile) walks, and the course has been changed.
Chaney said eight officers will work the event and two will be on regular patrol.
"Two-thirds of our police force will be out that day," he said.
Because walkers move at different paces in the 10K and half marathon, the officers will be stationed at points throughout the course at different times to keep the flow moving safely. According to the Walking Classic's website, all participants in the half marathon will be required to maintain a pace no slower than 18 minutes per mile to prevent a delayed finish time.
The new route will not go through the New Albany Farms subdivision this year. Instead, Chaney said, walkers will turn north on Kitzmiller Road from Dublin-Granville Road and walk to Smith's Mill Road, by the Abercrombie & Fitch business campus, before turning back south on Kitzmiller Road.
Overall awards will be given to the top three women and men finishers. To be eligible for a top three award, judged racewalking rules will be applied. Additional awards will be presented in various age groups after results are validated. Racewalking rules will not be applied to the age group awards.
Deputy City Manager Debra Mecozzi said the city has an event logistics committee which includes members of the police department, service department, community development department and communications office. They work together to ensure the event organizers have what they need.
"We support these events and everyone works really hard to make sure the event is a success," Mecozzi said. "Special events bring our community together. ... Special events are a reflection of our residents and businesses, a reflection of the character of our community. "
Registration is available at newalbanywalkingclassic.com. The event begins at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, in Market Square in New Albany.
The Walking Classic is organized by the New Albany Walking Club and Healthy New Albany. Heit said all proceeds from the event benefit local charities and health initiatives.