By Lindsay Eckert Kokomo Tribune
---- — On Oct. 12, close to 1,000 people will lace up their tennis shoes and hit the pavement for either a 3.1-mile run or a 13.1-mile run. But, this run won’t be along cornfields on county roads or a trail lined with autumn-shaded trees. Runners will rev up their heart rates — not their engines — on the new U.S. 31 as part of the Highway Half, also nicknamed the “one-and-done race” hosted by Kokomo YMCA. The race will travel along U.S. 31 before it opens to traffic of a more usual kind.
Erin Larison, Kokomo YMCA relationship and communications director, said the race may be a one-time chance to run an unlikely route, but the idea was ignited by a sense of community.
“As plans for the new U.S. 31 [developed], lots of folks in the community saw it as a negative thing; and [wondered why would people] want to bypass Kokomo. [So, we teamed up with the state and the city] to take this moment and celebrate our community in a foot race on the highway,” Larison said about the race that has been in the works for a year.
While Kokomo has a few half marathon races, this one will be a highlight and Larison said the community isn’t missing its chance to be a part of it.
“A lot of the community organizations are coming out and just owning their water stops,” she said. The stops will span the race’s distance and feature bands and live entertainment, Larison added. “The Amateur Radio Club of Kokomo is joining to help us know where all the runners will be and we have pace cars from McGonigal and the cars of Kokomo Automotive Heritage Museum will also be there. It’s really neat that community organizations are coming together and saying, ‘We do believe in this.’”
The community isn’t just coming together to sponsor and support the race, many are putting their feet in the running as well.
Kim LaFollette, marketing director at Community First Bank, encouraged 19 co-workers to participate in the 5k race, which will start at Morning Star Church, 2900 E. Markland Ave., alongside those running the half marathon.
“Some of us are walking and some of us are jogging in the 5k; the great thing is we’ve expanded to employees’ families as well,” LaFollette said of the small bank’s camaraderie. “We all got on board and a coworker and I trained with [Kokomo YMCA’s] couch to 5k; it’s been a great feeling to get stronger and healthier as a great team-building experience.”
One of the employees at Community First Bank took her training home and it resulted in her first race with her 10-year-old son. Monica Germelspacher said her husband is usually the coach of her kids’ activities so the race will be an opportunity for her to share some athletic competition and bonding with her son, Micah.
“I like to run and one my oldest sons asked me: ‘Mom, can I run with you?’ Then, I thought this is something we should do together as a mom-and-son thing. They’re used to Dad coaching so I could do this 5k with my son,” Germelspacher said.
Aside from running as a mother-son duo, Germelspacher added her son will have a unique perspective of the road they ran on.
“From his perspective, he’ll be driving on [the road] one day and will drive on that road and hopefully think: ‘Wow, I ran on this before anyone else drove on it,’” Germelspacher said. “My middle son asked to do it next year — he’s only 8 — and when I told him it’s only one time, he had this horrified look on his face. I think it’s really neat it’s a one-time thing; something we will never be able to do again.”
Rebekah Monroe, a Highway Half Executive Committee member, said the running event showcases Kokomo’s creativity with fitness, families and the community so many Kokomo residents are proud of.
“When you bring a [race] home, it’s something to be proud of that it’s right in your backyard. We’re the City of Firsts and [with this race] we’re allowing people to have the first opportunity to be on this road and the last time to be able to run on it,” Monroe said. “And people are going to be there cheering everyone on. It’s a rewarding thing.”