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Parkersburg on display for half-marathon

June 21, 2022 - Art Smith
Racing in the News and Sentinel Half Marathon means that you will cover much of Parkersburg on foot on Aug. 20.

The race course offers a little of everything as you travel in and out of the City of Parkersburg.

The starting line is on Juliana Street near the Court House, your race starts when you cross the black plastic starting mat and your time officially begins to register. You will make your way up a slight hill right from the start, passing our offices at 519 Juliana St. in the first quarter mile. Here is a tip. This is a great place to park, you will be parked one block from the finish line a few hours later. After passing the newspaper you will pass under the Sixth Street Rail Bridge, it was the longest span in the world when it was built in the 1800s, today it carries a few trains per day between Parkersburg and Marietta. You likely will not see any trains on race day, we ask them to not run on race morning. You will soon enter the Julia-Ann Historical District. Filled with wonderful and historical homes, the district’s large trees should provide shade for you as you continue uphill. When you get nearly to the end of the street, the half makes a hard left before it makes a hard right a block later. You will quickly drop down to the level of Garfield and Murdoch avenues. You then turn left and head back toward where you started. In a few hundred feet you will pass the first mile marker. Just 12.1 to go at this point as you start to run south. Once you pass the hospital you will begin what amounts to the longest climb on the race course. You also pass the first water stop right before you enter the on-ramp to cross the Little Kanawha River. After you are nearly across the bridge you will see the two-mile marker. At this point you have about a mile to go before things flatten down. You are doing great. It is early in the race, pace yourself. Turn around and you will see the starting line. Look to the right and you will see the Ohio River and the historic Blennerhassett Island. Along the way keep an eye out for giant foot prints, they are painted along the entire route.

You will briefly be running along the Robert C. Byrd Highway. Sen. Byrd brought much to the state, including things like funding for public works projects. Many of which are named after him. You exit the highway and then cross it on an overpass. You then run around a cone that takes you a little out of your way. This short leg was added several years ago after the new highway shortened the distance of the race a little, it was needed to keep the distance between the start and finish line exactly the same. There should be a man giving you high-fives at the cone.

He does this hundreds of times on race day.

You next pass the three-mile marker and start what is basically a one-mile downhill. Enjoy it. Once you hit the four-mile mark you enter what some have described as a roller coaster, small hills that wear some people out and continue on and off as you run along first Gihon and then Rayon drives. You will pass the 5, 6 and 7 mile markers on this stretch. You will also pass the halfway mark, that is just before the appropriately named Marathon gas station.

When you get to the end of this stretch you make a hard left onto the old Camden Avenue and the start of a long straight and flat run. Take advantage of water stops in this area, you will not find much shade from the sun along this road. Be prepared for the sun to be shining directly into your eyes during this leg of the race. You will pass both the 8- and 9-mile mark along this area, before making a right turn onto Camden Avenue for a short distance. The race turns right near a Speedway, which is also where you will find the 10-mile marker. You will start going uphill as you make your way across the Fifth Street Bridge and return to downtown Parkersburg. After several blocks you will make a right turn onto Avery Street. The wall in front of the United Bank building is a popular spot for people to sit and cheer you on. Give them a wave.

In front of you is a railroad crossing. This is the same track you ran under at the start of the race and if you look to the left as you cross, you will see other people finishing the race, you will also hear their name being announced as they cross the finish line. Ignore them, you are doing your race. You will get there shortly.

You will soon be running along the base of a hill. On the right you will see the Quincy Hill steps. Thankfully you are not going up those today. In a short time, you will pass the 11-mile mark before making a turn onto 13th Street. You went downhill on the street during the first mile of the race. Not now. Looming before you is the 13th Street Hill. To taunt you I put the summit elevation on it a while ago. It’s not so bad because it is high, it is bad because it is near the end of the race. The race then turns left onto Lynn Street and runs through a neighborhood. You will turn left onto 17th Street and pass the 12-mile mark right next to a car rental agency. Resist the temptation to rent a car for the final 1.1 miles.

You will need to spend a few feet on St. Marys Avenue before turning right to continue up 17th Street. The street has five stop signs on it. These do not apply to you. Keep going, you are almost there. When you get to the end of the street, turn left, you are on Market Street and you are almost at the finish line.

The crowds lining the street are there to cheer you on, they might stay afterward to watch the homecoming parade, but we like to think they are there for the runners. When you cross Seventh Street you will have the finish line in plain sight, Enjoy the view, you have earned it. Cross the line with pride, you have run your race, and in a real sense, you have won it. Congrats.


Art Smith is co-director the News and Sentinel races and is online manager for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. He can be reached at His column about the races appears each weekend.


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