The Mighty Niagara Half Marathon attracts runners from around the world. Participants have traveled from England, Ireland, Mexico, Germany, Austria and Ethiopia - just to name a few - to "run with the river" in this one-of-a-kind and highly anticipated race.
Held annually in conjunction with the Hospice Dash 5K, this year's event will take place Saturday, Sept. 24.
Race Chairman Paul Beatty Jr. started the event as a 5K and added the half marathon in 2011. The event has grown into one of Niagara Hospice's most successful fundraisers and has also become one of the most popular races in Western New York.
The scenic course begins at Artpark in Lewiston and continues along Lower River Road, travels past Old Fort Niagara, and finishes along the shore of Lake Ontario at Porter on the Lake Park.
The race features bands throughout the entire course, as well as before and after the run. The post-race party features popular local band Strictly Hip, and is an added value for runners and walkers alike with beer, water, hot dogs, snacks, awards and much more.
Race Coordinator Maureen Rizzo of Niagara Hospice said, "More and more runners are making this a destination race. It's great for our event, and it's also great for local businesses and attractions."
Many local businesses have signed on to support Niagara Hospice through their participation in the Mighty Niagara Discount Card, which is given to all registrants. Sponsors on the card provide special discounts to cardholders. The card is also used throughout the year by schools and other local organizations that sell them as an additional fundraiser for Niagara Hospice.
Rizzo said Niagara Hospice has also partnered this year with the Sheraton at the Falls Hotel to offer blocks of rooms for participants travelling to the race. The hotel is also serving as the location for packet pick-up from noon to 8 p.m. Sept. 21-23. Free shuttle transportation will also be available from the hotel to the starting line at Artpark.
Runners compete for prize money, and trophies are awarded to the overall male and female finishers. Medal pins are also given for age group winners. Rizzo said prize money for runners has been expanded this year, and that all the information is available on the website, www.MightyNiagaraHalfMarathon.com.
Runners and 5K walkers can choose to start a team to compete for the Team Spirit Award while also raising additional funds for Niagara Hospice. See the "Team" section of the website for details. Every runner will receive a custom finisher medal and a Dri-FIT running shirt.
Niagara Hospice Special Events Coordinator Mandy Raff said sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are still available for anyone wanting to get involved.
"It takes an army of volunteers to pull off an event this size. We are looking for service groups that may want to send a team, big or small, to help at our water stations and at Artpark and Porter on the Lake to assist with parking and traffic control," she said.
Since 1988, Niagara Hospice has provided end-of-life comfort, care and support to over 25,000 Niagara County individuals and families faced with terminal illness. No one is ever denied hospice care due to inability to pay. For more information, visit www.NiagaraHospice.org or call 716-HOSPICE.