Saturday, November 5, 2016

Heading to Huntington, WV

Just two weeks ago I was in St. Louis for my 32nd state half marathon, and now I find myself enroute to my 33rd in Huntington, West Virginia. Selecting this race wasn’t difficult, as it seemed like one that was well established (having been around for 12 years), was linked with both a medical center and university, and was accessible in the sense that it wasn’t completely in the middle of nowhere. I registered a few months back and put it on my calendar. 
Fast forward to my race trip to Milwaukee in September. I was reading my latest issue of Runner’s World magazine on the plane, and there was an article all about Huntington, WV and its status as the fattest/unhealthiest city in America (as determined by the CDC in 2008). The article went on to chronicle the rise in obesity, heart disease and diabetes in the area as being related to the demise of the coal, steel and chemical industries (and closing of factories there), the lack of a welcoming green space along the river (instead a wall was built separating the river from the community), and the repercussions still felt from the plane crash that killed the Marshall University football team and staff back in 1970
Two young men were profiled in the article, the local running store merchant and a local running enthusiast. These two men have worked to help improve the health and well-being of their community, and the half marathon I had registered to run there is a big piece of the shifting momentum. After reading the article I was really glad I had selected this race and that I’d be supporting the efforts to highlight healthfulness in Huntington. 
The article also prompted me to borrow the movie We Are Marshall from my local library. Matthew McConaughey plays the coach who came to Marshall University to rebuild the football program after the devastating loss of nearly the entire team back in the 70’s. The cards were stacked against him and his players, but they persevered in their goal to reestablish a football team for the University and its town. There is a memorial fountain on the Marshall University campus remembering the boys who perished in the crash. It surely is a bit of history the school will never forget. I’m glad I watched the movie so that I could learn about these events and keep them in mind during my time there. 
One of the neat perks about this half marathon is that the finish line is on the Marshall University football field. Runners who are interested can have a football handed to them as they enter the stadium so that they can run the field and make a touchdown at the finish line. I already know I’m going to do that. And as I run to the finish, I will keep all those young men who lost their lives in my mind and in my heart. I look forward to the experience. 

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