Heartland runners inspired to ‘get moving’


JASPER — It’s a tough course, but area runners are excited to participate in Jasper’s seventh annual Heartland Half Marathon and 5K on Saturday.

Those races will begin at 7:30 a.m., as will a team challenge race. According to information on the race’s website, the half-marathon’s course begins near the Jasper Train Depot along the Patoka River and finishes in the shade at Dave Buehler Plaza, just a stone’s throw away from the starting line. It’s a hilly course that is fairly challenging, the site says, especially at the midway point of the race along St. Charles Street.

Huntingburg runners Justin Howard and Melanie Arehart have never run a 13.1 mile half-marathon before. Arehart said in a Thursday phone interview that she has experienced a lot health struggles in the past few years and she wanted something positive to focus on. Justin said he was not athletic before beginning training a few months ago and wants to prove to people that you can go from couch to half-marathon with the right training and support.

“So many people when they hear 13.1 miles, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re crazy,’” Arehart said. “So, we wanted to take some of the stigma and fear out of it and show that we can do it, you can do it.”

The two — who work together as on-air personalities at the WITZ radio station — have trained with a group of runners at Downtown Fitness & Running in Jasper since early June. They met biweekly for runs to prepare for the race.

Another member of their group, Bryan “B.J.” Thomas, of Huntingburg, has ran in about 25 half-marathons. He’s also ran in marathons and a 50-mile race, and plans to run a 100-mile race in November. He’s 60 years old and has run in the Heartland Half Marathon every year since it began in September 2012. He started running in races in the spring 2011.

“You see a lot more people you know and everybody is friendly,” B.J. said of what sticks out about the Heartland. “Plus, it’s really close. That’s part of the thing about everybody being friendly and knowing you — it’s a great thing to do.”

According to the Heartland website, 90 percent of the proceeds from the half-marathon, 5K, and team challenge will go to the Phillip R. Dawkins Heart & Vascular Center for new, integrative medicine services provided to patients at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center. The remainder of the proceeds will go into the Dubois County Multisport Endowment for succession planning of the organization and for future charitable donations.

Monetary rewards will be dished out to the top three male and female finishers in the half-marathon race, with first place receiving $500, second place netting $250 and third place earning $100.

The Heartland Team Challenge will also take place at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. It is a four-person team relay that follows the same course as the Heartland Half Marathon. The first runner in the relay will travel 3.8 miles and pass along their timing chip to the second runner, the second runner will then run 4.05 miles and pass along their chip, followed by the third runner, who will run 2.5 miles. The final runner will finish off the remaining 2.75 miles.

The Heartland Kids Fun Run & Festival will take place today. The 1.1 Mile Kids Fun Run will begin at 6 p.m. at the paved parking area adjacent to the Dave Buehler Plaza. Children ages 4 through 14 are eligible to enter, and participants ages 4 through 8 will be required to run with a running buddy who is 18 or older. All of the proceeds from the Kids Fun Run and Festival will benefit Girls on the Run Serving Dubois County.

Runners can still register for all events from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today at the train depot and again tomorrow from 6 to 7 a.m. at the train depot before the races. The half-marathon costs $70, the 5K is $25, the team challenge will run you $100 per team, and entry into the kids fun run is $20. More information can be found online at heartlandhalfmarathon.com.

All runners interviewed from the Downtown Fitness and Running Group said the running community in the area is uplifting and that its members are known for encouraging each other and helping newbies. B.J., who is an inspiration to many of the group’s members, offered a parting piece of advice to those considering becoming runners.

“Get moving,” he said. “And then don’t stop.”

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