On a windy and brisk Sunday morning the Valparaiso Half Marathon brought out around 500 runners from various states to participate in the fall run. The marathon, which is put on by the Porter County United Way, takes a course through country roads in Valparaiso.
The event serves not only as a run for first time and experience athletes but as a fundraiser for the Porter County United Way. The charity has put on the race for the past five years and each year devotes their proceeds to various programs that the organization provides. This year the run will help benefit the Power of Youth Council, which is a program that is run through various high schools in the county. Power of Youth is a group of students who volunteer at various programs, fund raise for the United Way, give out funds to programs around the county, and help students be confident in themselves.
Not only did the race benefit the students in the Power of Youth program, it also got them out to the race in order to help volunteer and cheer the runners on. Keira Markaham, a sophomore at Andrean, was one of those students and said that despite the cold weather everything's been great.
"I've been doing many things today but I really liked being involved here. Everyone's really helpful, and it's nice to be a part of it because this is what I want to do in the future - to work with non-profits," Markaham said.
Mackenna Dickt, Assistant Director of the Volunteer Center for the Porter County United Way, said that making the focus on the Power of Youth Council for this year's marathon was an easy choice.
"It's preparing the next generation for participating in various causes and programs like the United Way. We're more than willing to put on an event that raises money for good causes," Dickt said.
The race, in the hands of plenty of hard-working volunteers and students, was a breeze. The course was flat and provided fast times for the runners who participated in the event. Many of the people who ran the half marathon accomplished their goals and broke old records they had set. Zach Krol, a senior cross country runner for Valparaiso High School, ran a personal best.
"I beat my goal by about three minutes or so. I did this race back in my sophomore year, but I didn't really prepare that well for it so the time wasn't the best. This year I came back and did even better and I'm really glad about that," Krol said.
Even if experienced athletes were setting their own records, the beginner runners were also accomplishing their very own goals. Extra Mile Fitness Company came with around 30 people that were in their training program. All of them ran the half marathon with six coaches running alongside them in order to keep their morale up. Heather Henderlong, co-owner of Extra Mile, was one of those people.
"They really had to dig deep and keep going against the wind. They started a bit fast but everyone ended up making their goals. It was really fun out there with the music and all of the kids cheering us on," Henderlong said.
Linda Clausten was a part of Extra Mile's training group, and was one of those many people who raced past their goals.
"It's a really great program to be in with because they're very motivational; they really help everyone do their best. Today was just fabulous. I'm really proud of myself because I beat my goal today which was a quicker time that I originally wanted. Everything's turned out great," Clausten said.
Once the runners completed their half marathon they were welcome to attend the after party, which had food from various eateries like Don Quijote, Valpo Velvet, Family Express, and County Line Orchard. There were also awards presented to the top three runners in their age divisions and overall winners.
The Valparaiso Half Marathon was the race to be at for not only the recreational runners, but for their supporters and the students who really experience something unique at a program that they love. Next year will be another one for the books for the United Way, but also for everyone who has the pleasure of being at this great event.