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City runs off with national gathering
Fredericksburg to become a recognized running destination in 2011

Date published: 5/16/2009

BY JONAS BEALS

Fredericksburg will host the 2011 Road Running Club of America national convention.

Yesterday's press conference announcement kicked off this year's Marine Corps Historic Half marathon weekend. It was good news for local runners, businesses and the organizers of the Historic Half.

According to officials, the convention--which will be held in conjunction with the Fredericksburg Area Running Club and the Historic Half--could bring an additional 400 to 600 people to that year's race.

"Having the national convention doesn't necessarily put more runners in the race," said Rick Nealis, Marine Corps Marathon director. "But it really showcases the local running club and the opportunities for runners here. I'm thrilled--I want FARC to benefit from holding the convention and being a leader."

The RRCA is one of the world's largest running organizations and boasts more than 180,000 members.

This year's RRCA convention was held in San Francisco, Calif., and the 2010 event is slated for April in Lakeland, Fla. Communities, represented by local running clubs, vie to host the convention each year. Applications are submitted to the RRCA in the fall.

"This is a great opportunity for national exposure for Fredericksburg and the Historic Half," FARC President Jack Morrison said. "It will be the centerpiece race for the convention."

The number of registered Historic Half runners has increased by more than 1,000 over last year, and Morrison hopes yesterday's announcement will boost that growth in the coming years. He thinks it will be good for the race and the city. "People will be staying at local hotels and eating at local restaurants," he said.

Every year, the RRCA convention is scheduled to coincide with an established race, shining a national spotlight on what might typically be a local or regional event.

The RRCA's decision could help strengthen the Historic Half's foothold in the area, something organizers and city officials hope leads to sustained growth and long-term success.

"This will exponentially increase our exposure at no marketing cost," Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak said.

The announcement came two days before the second annual Marine Corps Historic Half marathon. The 13.1-mile race starts at 7 a.m. Sunday, with approximately 6,600 registered runners from 46 states and eight countries. The inaugural race in 2008 attracted 5,561 registrants.

Participants in Sunday's race must pick up their packets from the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center on Carl D. Silver Parkway by 7 p.m. today.

Several downtown roads will be closed for the race Sunday morning. Check fredericksburg.com for details.

Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036
Email: jbeals@freelancestar.com