by Sarah Dollendorf
Renowned for its scenic routes, the 5th annual Mighty Niagara Half Marathon/Hospice Dash 5K takes place on Saturday, Sept. 21, with appeal to runners who support Niagara Hospice Alliance Inc.
Starting off at Artpark at 9:15 a.m., the Mighty Niagara course runs for 13.1 miles through the Village of Lewiston along Lower River Road, to the Village of Youngstown and historic Old Fort Niagara, continuing along Lake Road, Four Mile Creek State Park and finishing at Porter on the Lake in the Town of Porter.
Both of the races feature courses that are smooth and relatively flat, with a slight downhill gradient from start to finish. The Hospice Dash 5K gets underway promptly at 9 a.m.; its course is available for view at www.mightyniagarahalfmarathon.com.
Having its origins as the Hospice Dash 5K in 2009, the Mighty Niagara was formed in 2011 and has become one of the best races in the area, with large turnouts leading to further success every year.
With an expectation of approximately 1,000 spectators and 2,000 to 3,000 runners from all over the northeast, both the 5K and half marathon events are expanding their paths of success this year, with entertainment on the sidelines, festivities, and rewards for runners.
"One of the best features of the Mighty Niagara is the entertainment. We have a band or musician about every mile. The bands were Paul Beatty's idea; he's our race director," said Maureen Rizzo, advancement coordinator for Niagara Hospice Alliance Inc. "It is one of the things that makes our race very unique and keep our runners coming back year after year.
"When I run other races, (it's) with music in my headphones but not when I run this race. It is more fun to hear the bands and the cheering spectators."
Remarking on this one-of-a-kind event, Rizzo added, "The end of the race goes through Old Fort Niagara and Four Mile State Park and you finish at the post-race party at Porter on the Lake Park. The park is the perfect setting; it is on the shores of Lake Ontario. There is live music, food, drinks and awards after the race, but we're the only event that offers entertainment before during and after for a great cause."
Every runner receives a Mighty Niagara race bag for registering and running. Inside the race bag are Dri-FIT running shirts, a custom "finisher" prize to all contestants, and discount cards that offer discounts at local restaurants, The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls and other businesses in the area. Details on these discounts can be found on the event website.
In addition, awards will be presented to the top three male and female finishers of each age group, and a $750 prize will be awarded to the overall male and female Mighty Niagara winners.
"We are always looking for businesses to help sponsor the Mighty Niagara and Hospice Dash as we like to offer great shirts, food, drinks, etc., for our runners. We appreciate our sponsors, and they have been very generous. If any business or individual would like to make a donation to sponsor the event, they can contact me at 280-0728 or [email protected]," Rizzo said.
Those unable to participate but interested in helping Niagara Hospice Alliance can visit www.niagarahospice.org, click under "events," and select "sponsor a runner in the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon" in order to make a donation to hospice in the name of a runner. Those interested in volunteering can contact Rizzo.
For more on the Mighty Niagara, or to purchase discount cards, fundraise, or to register for the races, visit www.mightyniagarahalfmarathon.com.