New Albany News

Walking Classic nearing another sellout

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The New Albany Walking Classic slated for Sunday, Sept. 7, is almost sold out.

Event founder Phil Heit said about 90 percent of the 3,000 slots already are taken.

"We're way, way ahead this year," Heit said. "We've doubled the pace."

In 2013, registration opened in March; by April, about half the entries were in.

Registration opened this year in February, said Kristen Ferguson, the Walking Classic's marketing director.

The event typically sells out months before September, but more people might be registering early after missing out in previous years, Ferguson said.

"It's been closed out the last eight years," she said.

The walk begins at 8 a.m. on Market Street in New Albany.

Course distances are 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) or a half marathon (13.1 miles). The route meanders through the New Albany Country Club communities and participants have to be able to walk an 18-minute mile to finish before the course closes.

Ferguson said the Walking Classic's popularity stems partly from the giveaways.

This year, walkers will receive a jacket and a bag of goodies donated by local sponsors. Last year's goodie bag contained up to $300 in merchandise and restaurant coupons, with items such as towels, a belt buckle, sunscreen and lip balm.

"We've been bribing people just enough to get them in the habit of moving," Ferguson joked.

On a more serious note, she said, the giveaways are an enticement, but the goal is "getting people out and moving."

Some businesses are using the event as part of their company wellness programs.

Heit said one of the presenting sponsors, Aetna, typically has 100 associates walk each year.

"Many (businesses) incorporate the walk as part of their wellness program and encourage their associates to be active and walk," Heit said.

Heit said he isn't surprised by the popularity of the event. When he founded the Walking Classic in 2005, it was one of the only walking events in the nation.

He said the demographics seem to be changing this year and the average age of the walkers might have gone up from mid-40s to upper-40s.

Registered walkers come from 37 states and other countries, Ferguson said, mentioning previous participants from Germany and Canada.

Heit said this year, people from the United Kingdom registered, and Ferguson said the walk is not advertised nationally.

"We've done no national advertising," Ferguson said.

Heit said the walk is for people of all skill levels, everyone from casual athletes to Olympic speed walkers.

The event continues to be sponsored by American Electric Power and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which coordinates the health expo Sept. 5 and 6 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road in New Albany.

Walkers may pick up their race packets at the expo.

Registration is available online at newalbanywalkingclassic.com.

Fees through April 30 are $55 for the 10K and $70 for the half marathon. In May, the fees increase to $60 for the 10K and $75 for the half marathon.

The website also includes a map of the course and suggested parking.

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