Linda Romanoff says she was in the right place at the right time when she learned about the first New Albany Walking Classic in 2005.
After moving to New Albany that year, Romanoff said, she was at a New Albany Chamber of Commerce meeting when organizer Phil Heit spoke about the first Walking Classic.
"I talked to him about walking, being new to area and not knowing anything about (the Walking Classic)," she said. "I thought it might be a good way to start meeting people."
Romanoff, 53, had participated in walking events in other places she had lived, including an annual women's-only walking event in North Carolina.
After the 2005 Walking Classic, she joined the New Albany Walking Club, which meets once a week.
"The club had a group of people who were at the same speed and level and we would do a three-mile walk every Sunday and be done," Romanoff said.
But Heit, who founded the walking club, had other ideas.
"Phil encouraged us to do more," Romanoff said.
Before she knew it, she was walking five miles, then she was doing a half marathon.
"In that first year, I joined the club in September (2005) and by the following October (2006), I did my first half marathon," she said.
By 2009, Romanoff truly was hooked.
"I got involved in organizing the health expo and in the Walking Classic," she said. "I've served on the planning committee the last five years."
The annual health expo, started in 2008, has expanded with the Walking Classic it accompanies, adding vendors and sponsors through the years.
It now includes personnel from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who provide gait analysis, bicycle fittings, functional movement screenings, performance-arts medicine, proper shoe wear and tips on preventing ACL injuries, according to the Walking Classic website.
"The expo started out with a lot of small goods, sponsors and vendors," Romanoff said. "Now it's a health fair that features groups like the OSU Wexner Medical Center. It's one of the things people look forward to going to."
The Walking Classic has expanded quite a bit, too.
When it began in 2005, the Walking Classic had 1,000 walkers and a 10K course.
In 2013, the Walking Classic had 3,000 walkers from 33 states, two other countries and 350 ZIP codes, said Kristen Ferguson, the event's marketing director.
This year's Walking Classic has 3,500 registered walkers and it sold out in eight weeks, Ferguson said.
The 2014 New Albany Walking Classic will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 7.
It will feature a 10K (6.2-mile) walk and a half-marathon (13.1-mile) walk, both of which will start on Market Street and conclude in the same location by 3 p.m.
Race packets can be picked up from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, during the health expo at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road.
Ferguson said the course would differ slightly this year because of construction at various city intersections.
New Albany spokesman Scott McAfee said motorists might have difficulty navigating Greensward Road before 9 a.m. Sept. 7 but most of the walking traffic on Greensward would be cleared by then.
Two sections of roads will be closed Sept. 7: Dublin-Granville Road between Johnstown and Kitzmiller roads and the southbound lanes of Kitzmiller Road. The northbound lanes of Kitzmiller Road will remain open.
Motorists should avoid the intersections of Johnstown, Dublin-Granville and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads and Market Street, which will be closed.
Walkers will be aided by race workers directing them to the proper route and most will have no difficulty finding Romanoff, who carries balloons and serves as a pacer for half-marathon participants, who must be ahead of her to continue on at the six-mile marker.
"At the 6-mile split for the 10K and half marathon, walkers who are slower than the 18-minute per mile pace will be guided to finish with the 10K walkers and not be permitted to continue the half-marathon distance," according to the Walking Classic website.
Romanoff said she has carried balloons for the past four years with a friend, and the event and walking have become a regular part of her life.
She now begins her training 12 weeks before an event and does not let cold weather deter her; she finds an indoor space to walk in if the weather is bad.
Romanoff continues to walk in the Walking Classic and encourages others to do so as well.
"It's a very good event and a great way to meet people," she said. "It's a very well-run event with a lot of activities that go on around it. It's a fun time even if you're just a casual walker, not a serious walker. It caters to all types of walkers."