Details announced for half marathon

Runners take off at the start line of the inaugural Valley of the Lilies Half Marathon last April.

The scenic Cullowhee Valley will serve as the backdrop when runners from throughout the region gather at Western Carolina University for the second annual Valley of the Lilies Half Marathon and 5-K on Sunday, March 25.

The half marathon will begin at 7:30 a.m. and take runners on a picturesque 13.1-mile journey through the WCU campus and along the Tuckaseigee River. For runners looking for a shorter and faster option, race organizers are adding a 5-K (3.1-mile) race and walk to this year’s activities. That event will begin at 7:45 a.m.

Packet pickup will be held at WCU’s Campus Recreation Center from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 23. Details about a Saturday, March 24, packet pickup will be announced later, and packets also will be available from 6 to 7 a.m. race morning at the Campus Recreation Center.

Runners will find numerous aid stations with water and sports drink along the route, and mile-markers will help them chart their progress. All registered runners will receive a short-sleeve technical shirt.

WCU’s School of Health Sciences and Department of Campus Recreation and Wellness are hosting the races. Proceeds will be used to assist WCU students with expenses for professional presentations and travel to conferences.

Race organizers were hoping for at least 50 runners to participate in the inaugural Valley of the Lilies Half Marathon, held last April, and were thrilled to have 188 runners register for the race, with many of them taking on the half-marathon distance for the first time. The race committee once again is encouraging new half-marathon runners to participate, said Ashley Long, race co-director and assistant professor for WCU’s athletic training program.

A free training program developed by the athletic training staff will be e-mailed to registered half-marathon runners, and group training runs for the half marathon will be held on the WCU campus at 6 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, beginning Monday, Jan. 9. There will be tracks for both beginner and experienced runners, and experts in the fields of injury prevention, nutrition and health will provide information sessions and assistance to runners.

Online registration for the half marathon and 5-K is available at Registration fees are $40 for the half marathon and $20 for the 5-K through Wednesday, Feb. 29. Beginning Thursday, March 1, the fees increase to $60 for the half marathon and $25 for the 5-K. No registrations will be accepted after Wednesday, March 21, including on race day.

For more information about the Valley of the Lilies Half Marathon and 5-K, and the free training program, go to Valley of the Lilies.

Runners make their way along one of the flatter sections of the half marathon course along the Tuckaseigee River.