Ironmen celebrate 45th year running Ogden Half Marathon

WHEELING — Four ironmen have been taking on the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic since its conception in 1977 and are preparing to be at the starting line again this Saturday.

The race is referred to as “the most challenging half marathon in the country” and is known for its sloping terrain and changes in elevation.

Tim Cogan, Pat Cronin, David Fiorilli, and Michael Lemaster are celebrating the 45th anniversary of the race with their 45th year participating in it.

Cogan, a 75–year–old attorney at Cogan Law Office, signed up for the first half marathon after competing in the Charleston Distance Run with a group of fellow runners. He says what keeps him coming back is the simple fact that it’s held in Wheeling.

“Well, it’s because they have it,” he said. “I mean it sounds silly but it’s a hometown race, I like running races and there aren’t nearly as many as there used to be.”

Cogan says keeping control over his mindset is his biggest tool in distance running.

“Almost invariably I start running and think to myself, if I feel this bad at the beginning of the race, how am I ever gonna finish?” he said. “Then you start feeling a little better, you see some fans and you get some energy from them, and the race sort of shortens as you stay with it.”

Pat Cronin is a 69–year–old Wheeling native and owner of Wheeling Rubber Products. He began running cross country his junior year of high school and continued running in college. It was only a couple of years after receiving his diploma that he ran the half marathon.

He says he began running the race because it was an event happening in Wheeling, but that he never expected it to be celebrating the race’s 45th anniversary with it.

“I’m a lifelong runner and it was always the biggest event that we had, the biggest race that was going on, you know, certainly in 1977,” he said. “I didn’t start out thinking you’re going to do this for 45 years, but that’s what has happened.”

Cronin says, looking back, his favorite memories have little to do with crossing the finish line.

“What it kind of has become, it’s kind of a social event for me now, just enjoying the crowd and the spectators and so forth,” he said

“There was one year that the (Mingo Statue) at the top of Wheeling Hill, the statue had been stolen, so it wasn’t there,” he continued. “There was a young lady that dressed up in costume and stood up on that pedestal and cheered the runners on as they went by, and I always thought that was clever of her.”

David Fiorilli is 74 years old and lived in Wheeling for 65 years. He was a recreational runner at the time his marathon career began, but says his reason for signing up was to see just how far he could run at once.

“Well initially, I liked to run, and it was for the challenge,” he said. “I had never run that distance before, and thought that would be a great challenge to see if I could do it.”

He says the race being held during Memorial Day Weekend has changed the way he views his participation.

“It has become a great way of kicking off the summer and a great way of memorializing and remembering all those who have passed away before us, our family members, our friends and especially our service members,” he said.

Fiorilli says his years of running the race have proven to him what hard work and determination can do.

“It’s taught me that if you want to complete a challenge, don’t give up on it,” he said. “Continue to do it, you can do it.”

Michael Lemaster is 62 years old and originally from Columbus, Ohio. He began his distance running career after having to quit his high school track team to work. He wanted to continue racing, which brought him to the half marathon.

He says the challenging nature of the race kept him coming back after his first year.

“I’ve been a runner, I never quit running and I always continue to run and this was always a race that I just kept on my calendar because I just kind of like the challenge,” he said.

Lemaster says throughout his career, his motivation for traveling to different races has shifted.

“Particularly with racing anymore, It’s not about the race.” he said. “I’ve started to run races internationally, so I’ve raced in England, Scotland, Ireland and Canada just trying to find different places, and it gives me a way, especially with the half marathons, to see a bit of the countryside while doing a race as well.”

When asked how much longer they plan on competing in the annual race, all four ironmen said they will do it as long as they are able.

The 45th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run is slated for Saturday with runners taking off at 7:50 a.m.


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