“How can you tell if someone ran a marathon? Don’t worry they will tell you.” (Stolen from some anonymous Facebook post.)
In the early part of 2017, I encountered a little of “life irritability,” and I found that running in a local running group was cheap, effective therapy. Paducah resident Bill Culiver is the “chief coordinator and encourager” of a local running group named “Paducah Area running Crew” (PARC). The PARC running group (pictured above) made running fun, and they did not seem too bothered by my temporary irritability. (JSYK – This running group evolved out of PRCC, the work of Grant and Lindsay Gamster.) So in this mental state, I decided to make an attempt to check the “run a marathon” box off my “bucket-list” by signing up with the group for the St. Jude’s Marathon in Memphis. As you might expect there were several moments, in which I questioned the sanity of my choice. In the same manner as “boot camp” memories eventually erode into fun memories, I suspect the memories of the “getting ready” runs (they call them training runs) will erode into fonder memories. In the end, I endured and recorded the slowest time in our group. However, I get to check “run a marathon” off the “bucket-list.”
As the marathon date grew near, I became amazed that 26,000 people had paid as much as a $140.00 entry fee so they, too, could drive and/or fly to downtown Memphis, Tennessee for the purpose of …”running.” Despite attempting to make hotel reservations 5 months in advance of the marathon, the closest lodging I could get to the “starting line” was 12 miles away. Obviously the restaurants were full with the 26,000 runners and the 40,000 spectators. In all, the St. Jude’s Marathon events raised over ten million dollars for the Memphis Children’s Hospital. Amazingly, this annual Memphis marathon has grown to its 25,000 plus size in just 18 years. What is more amazing – the fact that the Memphis marathon is still a small marathon in comparison to at least 25 other U.S. marathons.
While the “getting ready runs” were not much fun, the race itself was fun – well, the first half was fun…the second half mostly hurt things on my body like my feet. The marathon course took us through the neighborhoods of Memphis which were simultaneously holding “block parties.” The festive “block parties” featured music, food, drinks and designated individuals who were tasked with the responsibility of shouting encouragement to the runners. The marathon course also included the St Jude Children’s Hospital campus. The doctors, staff, patients, and families lined the course giving runners salutations and “high fives.” It was an emotionally charged moment for everyone involved.
Paducah has a similar running event; however, on a much smaller scale (a half marathon). Six years ago, Pam Truitt, Amy Peal, Cindy Medford, Davida French, Mark Vance, and John Durbin collaborated to organize what is now known as the “Paducah Iron Mom Race.” Like the Memphis race, the Paducah Iron Mom Race is becoming a busy traditional weekend in that the event is the Saturday which immediately precedes Mother’s Day. According to a local hotel manager, the Paducah Iron Mom event is the fourth busiest weekend at the local Marriott hotels.
The Paducah Iron Mom Half Marathon has over time developed an urban running trail which is now known as “The Iron Mom Trail.” “The Iron Mom Trail” is well marked to runners, but has no signs. “The Iron Mom Trail” is marked with blue markings which are on the pavement throughout our city. It may be of interest that “The Iron Mom Trail” intersects and connects multiple Paducah neighborhoods including: Lowertown, Noble Park, the North Side, the Pines, the West End, Frenchtown, and Midtown. It might be worth a “community ponder” to consider ways to improve the existing work of the foot soldiers (see what I did there?) who have quietly created “The Iron Mom Trail.” As they run “The Iron Mom Trail,” runners often ponder the ways the community could improve the trail with signs, sidewalks, safety engineered intersections, easements, and utilizing vacant lots. I think “The Iron Mom Trail” is low hanging fruit; a community asset which can be improved over time through city and county cooperation.
A better developed and safer “Iron Mom Trail” would serve our community well with the possibility of additional running events and further serving to connect multiple neighborhoods with both recreation and routes for alternative transportation. If data continues to develop that demonstrates that “The Iron Mom Trail” could be a tool of local tourism, then perhaps either the trail improvements or events will merit partial funding from the transient tax revenue which is collected from the tourist who visit our community.
The transient tax statute provides:
A portion of the money collected from the imposition of this tax, as determined by the tax levying body, upon the advice and consent of the tourist and convention commission, may be used to finance the cost of acquisition, construction, operation, and maintenance of facilities useful in the attraction and promotion of tourist and convention business, including projects described in KRS 154.30-050(2)(a).
Another source of funding are the federal grants which encourage the construction of urban trails which can be used for transportation. Certainly “The Iron Mom Trail” meets the criterion. Each year Kentucky gets about 14 million dollars in such grants. The recent cooperation between the County and the City in a grant application to extend the Green Way Trail into the McCracken County Soccer Complex is encouraging. However, because these grants are awarded annually, then we, as a community, should keep our plate full of potential ideas for such grant opportunities. Our community needs to ensure it does miss out when such opportunities arise.