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Double-duty distance runs make for hectic Saturday in Fairmont

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

Two races in one city at the same time might ordinarily stir a bit of chaos. In Fairmont, it creates excitement.

Saturday marks the 22nd Annual Fairmont 5K & 10K run, sponsored by Monongahela Valley Bank. They are two separate races that start at opposite ends of East-West Stadium and split off. The 10K is the oldest in the state and is part of the Morgantown Area Grand Prix series. Both races start at 9 a.m.

"It does get mixed up a little bit," co-race coordinator Dick Hawkins said. "But it works very well."

The race started after a group of regular road runners decided it would be a good way for other runners to come together, Hawkins said. The idea started to grow, and sponsors were found.

But in 22 years, the Fairmont 10K has not seen the same growth as the Greater Clarksburg 10K has in four years.

"We used to have a lot of financial backing," Hawkins said. "It used to be very competitive. But we lost some sponsors."

Now, the race is mostly for locals, he said. It draws from Clarksburg, Bridgeport and Morgantown and other parts of the state. For both the 5K and 10K, as well as the Fun Run, which takes place after the main race, about 300 runners are expected.

The course was designed by Frank Price and includes 21 turns and several hills.

"It's a tough course," Hawkins said. "It's rolling all through Fairmont. (Price) is often cursed."

The race itself has seemed cursed lately, he said. This is mainly because of the slow death of the recent running boom. Although the race seems to be aging, it won't die off.

"We're actually starting to pick back up," Hawkins said. "As the baby boomers look at retirement, they're wanting to get in shape."

Of the two races, the 5K is the more popular, he said. But numerous runners have participated in every 10K race, so it's not going away any time soon.

The key to keeping the race on the upswing is to have more stabilizing sponsors such as Monongahela Valley Bank, Hawkins said. That would provide a base for even more sponsors and more runners.

Although the race has certainly benefited from the Clarksburg 10K's success, it hasn't produced the kind of draw Hawkins had hoped for.

"Some people need an incentive to get here," he said. "Unfortunately, that incentive is money."

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444.

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