WHEELING - A holiday weekend filled with family, fun and fitness gets under way in downtown Wheeling today with a traveling tribute to veterans, followed by the Ogden Tiny Tot Trot and Ogden Fun Run for children as well as the Ogden Mile for those ages 13 and up.
The official kickoff to the 37th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk events, the Veterans Torch Relay, begins at 4 p.m. at the Osiris Shrine Temple in Elm Grove. Participants will travel west along National Road, handing the torch off to representatives of various military eras along the way.
Race Director R. "Scat" Scatterday said veterans and their family members are invited to join the procession, which will conclude at the Ogden Half Marathon start-finish line at 14th and Main streets. For those who want to take part but may not be physically able to do so, the Oglebay Trolley will follow the group, offering transportation to any participant who needs it.
Beginning at 5 p.m., families can visit the Tot Trot tent on 14th Street and register their littlest members for the Ogden Tot Trot, which steps off at 6:45 p.m. from beneath the WesBanco skywalk on 14th Street. The initial running of the Tot Trot will include 4- and 5-year-olds, who will proceed west about 100 yards to the start-finish line.
They will be followed by those age 3 and under, and parents are welcome to run with their children. The free event is sponsored by Ohio Valley Parent magazine, and Editor Betsy Bethel said all participants will be declared winners and will receive a medal and other prizes.
The non-competitive, 1-mile Ogden Fun Run for children 12 and under starts at the top of Wheeling Hill at 7:15 p.m. Buses will be available to shuttle runners and their parents to the starting line. Registration for the Fun Run costs $10, and participants receive a race T-shirt.
Parents can accompany their children during the Fun Run for free if they wish, or they also can pay the fee and receive a T-shirt. Registration is from 10 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the Intermodal Transportation Center.
The Ogden Mile, the "fastest mile in America," is set for 7:30 p.m., also beginning at the top of Wheeling Hill.
The main event, the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run, starts at 8 a.m. Saturday. This challenging distance race known for its changes in elevation offers prizes in various categories, including Open, Masters and 2-person relays as well as various age groups. The Half Marathon Walk steps off 30 minutes earlier at 7:30 a.m., while the 5K Run and 5K Walk for Health follow at 8:15 a.m. All of these events begin and end at 14th and Main streets and will be followed by an 11:30 a.m. results ceremony.
Proceeds from this year's Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk will help the Augusta Levy Learning Center carry out its mission of helping children with autism reach their fullest potential and grow up to lead productive lives. The decision to partner with the North Wheeling center marks the fourth year the Ogden race has donated its proceeds to a charitable cause that benefits local youth. The race in previous years has donated its proceeds and given support to the Miracle Field of the Ohio Valley and the Howard Corcoran Scholarship Fund through the Super Six Committee.
All race participants and spectators should be aware of heightened security measures surrounding this year's events. Following the deadly bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, organizers are taking extra precautions to ensure they are prepared for anything, even though law enforcement officials believe the chance of a similar attack during Wheeling's race is minimal.
A "secure area" monitored by police and private security personnel will surround the start-finish line at 14th and Main streets. The three points of the secure zone are formed by the intersections of 14th and Market streets, 12th and Water streets and Main and South streets.
Barricades will be erected around the zone, and private security will staff six entry points to the secure area. These will be located at Water Street, just north of 14th Street; two on Main Street, one just north of 14th Street and one just south of the intersection; on 14th Street between Main and Market streets, in the area of Lane B; on South Street between WesBanco Arena and the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center; and at the South Street exit to the intermodal center.
No one with any type of bag, package or briefcase will be permitted past those checkpoints. Strollers also will not be allowed into the secure area, which will be in effect from 3:30-8 p.m. today and from 6-10:30 a.m. Saturday. And on Saturday morning, vehicles will only be able to enter the parking garage on the Main Street side.
Adding to the hustle and bustle downtown this evening will be John Marshall High School's graduation, taking place at 7:30 p.m. at WesBanco Arena - the same time as some of the race's preliminary events. That ceremony is expected to draw up to 3,000 additional people to the area beyond the race crowd. As a result, Wheeling Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball said checkpoint locations will be adjusted slightly to allow motorists to use both entrances to the parking garage.