More than 300 athletes from across the country are expected to participate in the first Merco Credit Union Half Marathon on Sunday.
According to organizers, the event will serve as a fundraiser by the Merced County Women Lawyers Association to create a scholarship for Merced County high school students to attend UC Merced.
The 13.1-mile race route starts at UC Merced. Athletes will run through countryside on Bellevue Road, down M Street past Merced College, along the Black Rascal bike path to Rahilly Park, then return to UC Merced along the Lake Road bike path. The route will feature a fast, flat-pavement loop.
The half marathon will kick off at 7 a.m. and conclude by noon, giving runners a five-hour limit to finish the course.
The half marathon also will offer a relay event in which recreational runners can join a three-member team to complete the course.
According to event co-chairwoman Natalie Hayen, the half-marathon may be reminiscent of the Merco Cycling Classic.
“We always thought Merced was ready for what could become a national level running event,” Hayen said. “When we heard that the nationally recognized Merco Cycling Classic was not to continue beyond 2013, we knew that the time was now. After 20 years of embracing an event like that, we knew Merced would embrace this event as well.”
The half marathon is open to everyone in Merced and across the nation. According to Hayen, runners from as far as Virginia are expected to participate.
Hayen believes an event such as this one is the perfect opportunity to get Merced residents running.
“We’re working really hard to build a happy and healthy event for the community,” Hayen added. “Hopefully we can inspire people to join us and turn this into an annual event.”
About 200-plus volunteers will work with the Merced Police Department, California Highway Patrol and Merced County Sheriff’s Office to secure the race route.
Runners will receive a finisher’s medal, a T-shirt and a finisher’s breakfast.
Today is the last day to register. Registration is $85. Anyone interested in participating can sign up at www.runningmerced.com.
Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or aibarra @mercedsunstar.com.