The 42nd Charleston Distance Run figures to get an assist from the state’s two major-college football programs this year.
For the first time since 2005, West Virginia University doesn’t open its football season at home on the same day as the Distance Run. Every year since then, the Mountaineers had kicked off either at noon or 3:30 p.m. on the day of the 15-mile race through the streets of Charleston.
This year, WVU plays Alabama in Atlanta at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 30. Marshall also helps out by opening on the road, playing at Miami (Ohio) at 3:30 p.m. on the same day.
Those conflicts kept many runners — as well as spectators and race volunteers — from participating in the morning Distance Run as many instead made the trek up Interstate 79 to Morgantown, especially when WVU and MU played each other. But when the gun sounds for this year’s CDR on Aug. 30, no such conflict exists and the Distance Run should benefit with a larger field and perhaps more spectators.
“I do think that,’’ said race director John Palmer. “Since we’re at 7:30 in the morning and WVU-Alabama doesn’t start until 3:30, people can finish in plenty of time and go home and see the game. We are losing a few runners to Atlanta, but not many.’’
When contacted Wednesday, Palmer said entries in the Distance Run’s many divisions broke the 1,000 mark this week, which could indicate a bigger field.
“It looks like we’re on track to be where we were last year,’’ he said, “or perhaps a little bit ahead of last year.’’
Besides the traditional 15-mile run, which began in 1973, the Distance Run docket includes a 5-kilometer run and 5-K and 10-K walks. Also, runners can participate in a three-person relay for the 15-miler, with each running a leg of either three, five or seven miles.
All of those events begin at the State Capitol and end at University of Charleston Stadium.
Last year, 1,338 people finished one of those races, though more than 1,500 were registered to run or walk. The 15-mile event saw 558 runners complete the course.
Palmer was hopeful that the Distance Run could forge a partnership with some of the participants in the ongoing Power Walking 150 program, which is sponsored by the City of Charleston, the West Virginia Power baseball team and UC’s Graduate School of Business.
The program, which began on April 4 and runs through Sept. 1, rewards people who walk or run 150 miles in 150 days, which coincides with the Power’s South Atlantic League season.
“We’re hoping that some of them complete their 150 miles [in the CDR],’’ Palmer said, “and we can attract some Power Walkers for the 5-K and 10-K.’’
Distance Run officials aren’t sure yet if any of the Kenyans who dominated last year’s 15-miler will be returning. Gary Smith, who handles runner registration, received an email Wednesday from Ben Kurgat, a researcher at the University of North Carolina who coaches and represents several Kenyan runners.
Kurgat was interested in bringing three runners (two men, one woman), including defending champion Kiprono Kurgat (no relation to the coach), who ran a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes, 29 seconds last year. Runners in Ben Kurgat’s stable have competed in road races this year in Clarksburg, Wheeling and Parkersburg.
Last year, Ben Kurgat’s runners finished 1-2-3 in the men’s race and 1-2 in the women’s division.
The 2012 winner was Jeff Weiss, a Ravenswood Middle School teacher who was clocked in 1:21:14.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.