Even after nine years, the New Albany Walking Classic is still finding ways to grow and improve.
The annual event, which draws 3,000 participants and hundreds more spectators to the streets of New Albany, has firmly cemented itself as a popular citywide event that promotes and educates neighboring communities about creating healthier habits and dietary choices.
“For us, it’s not a fundraiser; it’s a way to get people to adopt a healthy lifestyle. We don’t want people doing this event because they have to raise money for something,” says Walking Classic founder Phil Heit. Still, all money raised by the race goes to charities and endowments to promote health in New Albany.
“We donate all of the money anyway. We donate more, percentage-wise, than any other race anywhere,” Heit says. That’s because all race workers and organizers are volunteers.
The 2013 race will be better than ever, Heit says.
“This year we have so many more food vendors. This is not the kind of event where they’re giving out apples and bottles of water. We have Brio, Rusty Bucket, Steak Escape, Cameron Mitchell and Subway; the list goes on and on. There are about 20 food vendors,” he says.
Each participant also receives a special insulated black race jacket valued at several times the registration fee.
Heit created the event to give walkers their own premier event similar to the races for runners that are so prevalent across the country.
“If twice as many people in the United States walk instead of run, why not have an event for walkers, only on the same scale as what’s done for runners?” he says.
And with each year has come increased popularity for the event – so much that organizers have had to set a cap on the number of participants.
“What’s more important to us is the quality of the event versus getting numbers of people.” Heit says. “The pace of registrations for this year's Walk is double the pace of that of 2012.”
The maximum is 3,000 walkers and Heit anticipates the walk will sell out very quickly.
“The roads can only hold so many. Therefore, if we expand, we’d have to change the course, so we’re going to keep it in the neighborhood,” he says.
The course, which Heit says is “gorgeous,” winds through the city and highlights much of what New Albany has to offer.
While the Walking Classic is generally recognized as a community event, New Albany residents only make up about 15-18 percent of the people who participate, Heit says. The rest come from all over the country – more than 250 ZIP codes.
Nearly 80 percent of the participants are women, and the average age of all participants is in the mid-40s. It is this demographic that makes the decisions in the family about what is spent on purchases, whether for health care or buying groceries. This is a major reason why many sponsors seek a partnership with the Walk, Heit says.
Heit has grand plans for the Walking Classic. Stay tuned for possible major announcements in the future.
The New Albany Walking Classic is scheduled for 8 a.m. Sept. 8 in Market Square. Registration, which is available online at newalbanywalkingclassic.com, for the 10K is $45 through the end of July and $50 through the end of August. Half Marathon registration is $55 through the end of July and $60 through the end of August.
Race packets must be picked up between 4-8 p.m. Sept. 6 or 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts. Photo ID is required for pickup.
New Albany resident David Allen is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.