By Joe Scalzo
Runners like to say a marathon is just a 10K with a 20-mile warmup.
Of course, runners also like to wear T-shirts that say “My sport is your sport’s punishment” and “Anyone can run 100 meters; it’s the next 42,200 that count.”
In that spirit, on Sept. 15, Mill Creek Park will unveil the Green Cathedral half-marathon, giving area runners a chance to help raise money for a new children’s playground at Wick Recreation Area and spend two hours doing something that leaves people questioning their sanity.
(But hey, a half-marathon is just a 5K with a 10-mile warmup.)
The Green Cathedral serves as a bookend to the annual Mill Creek Distance Classic, a half-marathon in early March that attracted 800 runners this year thanks to its unbeatable menu of frigid temperatures, 19 hills and 8:30 a.m. start time.
The Green Cathedral also starts at 8:30, but at least you’re more likely to die of heat exhaustion than frostbite.
“We have 20-30 races through the park every year and we decided Mill Creek should have its own race,” said Rikki Brammer, the park’s programs and events coordinator. “The market is flooded with 5Ks, so we wanted to be different. Plus, with the Distance Classic early in the spring, we thought it would be great to have one in the fall.”
The race begins at the Wick Recreation Area, winds down around Lake Glacier and continues past Lake Newport near Shields Road before snaking back to Wick. The River’s Own Band will perform and all proceeds will go toward a new playground at Wick.
The half-marathon comes one day after the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 25K/50K and one week after the Run YTown 10-miler, which are both in the park. Despite that competition, Brammer hopes the Green Cathedral can draw 500 runners in its first year. To that end, the event will also offer a 5K and kids’ fun run.
“If we can get 500,” Brammer said, “I’ll be completely happy.”
Area running guru Ted Rupe will help time the race and offer online registration through his website, gopherarun.com.
“I’ve been really impressed with everything I’ve seen so far,” Rupe said. “They’ve put a lot of work into this thing and Rikki is just a ball of fire and energy, which is something I don’t have so much of.
“I’m just thrilled to see them do this. We’ve got 5Ks by the dozens and you have 10Ks with the Panerathon and the Peace race and this is a really good opportunity for runners to step up to the half-marathon and see if they can handle it.”
Unlike neighboring cities like Cleveland, Akron and Pittsburgh, Youngstown does not have its own marathon. Brammer said while the possibility has been discussed, it’s probably still a few years away.
“The thing about Mill Creek Park is, it’s all hills,” she said. “Is a marathon doable? Yes. But not in the near future. Maybe in five years.”
In the meantime, runners can at least add a 13.1 sticker to their cars, a race T-shirt to their closets and some ice to their knees.