The Greater Clarksburg 10K doesn't officially start for one more day, but the city began to feel its presence Thursday night.
A reception at the Bank One Plaza officially kicked off festivities for the event. Nearly one hundred people attended the informal gathering, including this year's featured speaker at the 10K Banquet, Don Kardong, and former Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers.
Race chairman Larry Mazza said the gathering has become somewhat of a social gathering and a chance to interact with those involved in the race.
"We wanted this to be a way for the community to get involved with the race," Mazza said. "Primarily it's an opportunity to recognize our investors and community leaders. Plus it's a chance to meet some of the professional and celebrity runners each year.
"I guess it's sort of one last chance for all the runners to get together for a pre-race celebration before they have to get ready for Saturday."
Activities will resume again tomorrow at noon with the 10K Luncheon at Phillip's and later that evening at the Fairmont State College Gaston Caperton Center in Clarksburg. Rodgers and Dr. Kitty Consolo will be on hand at 6 p.m. to give runners some last minute tips about preparing for the race. Kardong will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon.
This will be Kardong's first appearance, but he said the event has already gained recognition in running circles.
"If you look nationally, there has been a couple of events in the last few years that have risen to the top and this is one of them," Kardong said. "I've been hearing about it for a couple of years. Bill Rodgers has told me what a great weekend it is, so I'm looking forward to seeing it myself."
A former Olympic runner, Kardong finished fourth in the 1976 Montreal Olympic games. The Spokane, Wash. native was a member of the Stanford University cross country team which finished second in the NCAA championships in 1968.
His resume also includes a win at the prestigious Peach Tree Class in Atlanta in 1976 and the 1987 Le Grizz 50 mile Ultramarathon. He is also Stanford's record holder in the 2-, 3- and 6-mile run.
Although he hasn't had the opportunity to run the course, Kardong said he has seen the layout and anticipates a tough course.
He said that has helped lead to the race's reputation.
"It's really odd for a race to elevate in status as quickly as this one has," Kardong said. "In the running boom of the late '70s and early '80s, a new race would soar pretty quickly, but it's harder to do that now.
"You have to have a lot of people who are doing the right things and community support, but even then it doesn't always work. For the Clarksburg 10K to come the way it has is pretty impressive."
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444.