Bad times beget good news — for the Peace Race.
Both at the organizational level and on the road, interest in running has gained.
At least that’s the opinion of Peace Race president Jenn Wohlgamuth.
The fact that the race’s board of directors now numbers 20 is an encouraging sign.
“There’s been an organizational explosion,” Wohlgamuth said of the board’s growth from a handful of members the past six years. “That’s awesome,” she said. “It shows so much more interest. It shows that people want to do more for their community.”
Also, it’s her belief that an upsurge in the activity is related by two factors: health and economy.
“Overall, the interest in running is definitely health-related, which is an offshoot of the economic recession,” Wohlgamuth said. “Running is the best form of anti-depressant, Especially now, people need some stress release and running provides that outlet.”
Plans for the 2009 Peace Race — which will be Oct. 4 — began last December.
Wohlgamuth said that the race field is 90 percent local, with the rest from around the region, including Cleveland, Akron and Pittsburgh. A very small percentage is foreign, although that segment isn’t sometimes determined until the week of the race.
As usual, the race’s major event is the 10K with the two-mile fun run serving as the precursor.
However, a new event has been incorporated in the Peace Race lineup: a 100-meter dash, which is being sponsored by Akron Children’s Hospital.
Wohlgamuth noted that the 10K, for a second straight year, will double as the Road Runners Club of America’s state championship for Ohio.
The state designation was awarded after a bidding process.
“This is the second year it’ll be in effect,” Wohlgamuth said of the additional prestige.
Entry fees are $17 for the 10K and $17 for the two-miler. The kids race (100 meters) is free.
Although there’s no evidence to support her projection, Wohlgamuth would be thrilled with an entry of 1,400 runners (combined races). The 2008 Peace Race had 1,200-plus.
While the foreigners — if any — may run away with the overall purse, some elite runners expected to be high in the finish for prize money in the Ohioan category are Sarah Flament, Terry McCluskey and Matt Folk.
“The field of Ohio runners is incredibly strong and talented,” Wohlgamuth said.
Flament is a Poland resident who is a 2010 Olympic hopeful in the marathon, while Terry McCluskey of Vienna is a nationally ranked grand master runner (60-64 age group).
Former Canfield resident Matt Folk, now of Toledo, is a past multiple winner entered.
McCluskey is regularly mentioned by Masters Runner of Running Times Magazine for his performances. Most recently, he was listed in its July/August issue.
Another often-mentioned runner is Lou Lodovico of Ellwood City, Pa. in the 80-84 age group.
Flament and McCluskey are on the Peace Race board of directors.
Aside from her 17-year association with the Peace Race, the 40-year-old Wohlgamuth’s link to runners is enhanced by her position as a partner with Second Sole owner Steve Hixson.
“I work in the running world every day,” Wohlgamuth said of Second Sole’s clientele and the Boardman store’s role as headquarters for registration, packet pickup and questions.
“We’re opening our tenth store next week,” Wohlgamuth said of a Second Sole in Cranberry, Pa.
Another alteration is the finish line, which will be downtown at the square on Federal Plaza instead of Commerce Street near the YMCA.
The 2-miler begins and ends at the square, while the 100 dash will also be at the square. The 10K ends at the same site, but begins on Indianola Ave. near Glenwood.
“It’s a little more viewer-friendly,” Wohlgamuth said of the relocated finish line.
Ted Rupe, another board member, will continue as race-day timer.
Wohlgamuth, now in her third year as Peace Race president, reiterated her reasoning for running’s upswing.
“The economy has not slowed down the running industry, it’s actually given it a surge. People are not traveling and people need to focus on health. Running is an inexpensive and good family event and doesn’t cost a lot of money.”