*This story first appeared in The Budget’s March 21, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
Spring has arrived in the Tuscarawas Valley, and that means that the area’s largest community health and fitness event, the Union Hospital Run for Home Fitness Festival, is right around the corner.
Each spring for the last decade, runners of all ages have come together at New Philadelphia’s Tuscora Park to put their endurance to the test while supporting the local Habitat for Humanity chapter’s efforts to help hardworking families in Tuscarawas County achieve strength, stability and independence through home ownership.
“The first group that decided to put on this event was talking about what type of things we’d like to support. It just seemed to be a natural fit,” explained Race Director Matt Ritzert. “Some of our original organizers were already involved with Habitat, and we tw that as a great organization that is working to meet a real need in our community and is worthy of the support of the community.”
Over the years, the event has grown and evolved but its mission has remained unchanged.
“The first year, it was simply a team relay and a half marathon, and we added the 5-mile walk, and we added the kids’ run. We added the one-mile run. The last couple of years, we’ve done a 10K race,” said Race Director Matt Ritzert. “We keep adding events and adding new features.”
The Run for Home in its current form now encompasses an entire weekend, with a variety of family-friendly health and fitness events and activities scheduled for both days of the event.
This year’s Run For Home Fitness Festival will kick off on Saturday, April 7, and return on Sunday, April 8, to mark the event’s 11th consecutive appearance at Tuscora Park.
The festival begins on Saturday at 8 a.m. with the opening of a health and fitness expo featuring information and demonstrations from about a dozen area organizations and vendors. “We’ve been doing that from the very beginning,” Ritzert explained. “We wanted to really make it a community event. We wanted to encourage community fitness. We wanted to encourage people to get active, and we just thought the expo was a good way to do that and provide an outlet for health- and fitness- related organizations.”
The expo runs until 1 p.m., and confirmed vendors include Union Hospital, Habitat for Humanity of East Central Ohio, the Tuscarawas County YMCA, and Route 250 Health & Fitness (formerly Super Fitness).
Saturday’s fitness events include a kids’ run that kicks off at 9:45 a.m. There is no fee or registration required to take part in the event, and all participating children will receive a special ribbon.
The kids’ run will be followed by a 10K race that begins at 10 a.m. Awards will be presented to the top three female and male finishers overall as well as the top three finishers in each age group, and all participants will receive an exclusive race gear package. Registration is $40 through April 6 or $50 on race day.
Also on Saturday will be a one- mile fun run/walk for individuals of all ages that begins at 10:15 a.m. The cost to register is $15 through April 6 or $20 on race day, and all
participants will receive a 2018 Run for Home t-shirt. Awards will be presented to the top three female and male finishers overall and ribbons to the top three finishers in each age group.
Events scheduled for Sunday include a half-marathon, three-person team relay, and timed 5-mile walk, all beginning simultaneously at 11 a.m.
The certified half-marathon course takes runners from Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia to Dover City Park and loops back to Tuscora Park for the finish inside Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium. Awards will be presented at the finish line to the top three overall female and male finishers overall and the top three finishers in each age group.
The team relay follows the same 13.1-mile course divided up into three sections. A shuttle bus service will be available to relay runners back to the park after completing their leg of the race. Awards will be presented to the top five teams in each of three divisions: Male, Female, and Coed.
All half-marathon and team relay participants will receive a moisture- management shirt, and all finishers will receive a medal.
Registration for the half- marathon is $65 through April 6 or $75 at the event. Registration for the team relay is $120 through April 6 or $135 at the event.
Also on Sunday will be a timed 5- mile recreational walk for individuals and families designed to promote a healthy lifestyle. All walk participants will receive a t-shirt, and awards will be presented to the top three male and top three female finishers. Registration for the walk is $30 through April 6 or $35 at the event.
“We try to make it attractive to the participants by offering a little something for everybody from the kids’ run to the half marathon, and we think we offer very good value for the participants in terms of the things that they get for participating – the shirts and medals and awards and so forth,” Ritzert shared. “We try to make it a great event that people want to participate in.”
To date, the event has raised approximately $186,000 for Habitat for Humanity projects in Tuscarawas County. “We are truly grateful for all the planning and participation that makes Union Hospital Run for Home such a powerful event year after year,” said Kevin Miller, director of marketing and communications for Habitat for Humanity of East Central Ohio. “I say that it’s a powerful event because it helps Tuscarawas County families change their futures forever through decent, affordable housing—and that’s so incredible.
“All of us at Habitat for Humanity feel humbled to have the opportunity to partner with the Run for Home team, the sponsors, and all the participants who are helping local families thrive with Habitat,” he added.
Funds from this year’s event will be used toward construction projects scheduled for completion this year. For additional information or to register for an event, visit www.runforhome.org. Registration forms can be picked up at the Tuscarawas County YMCA, located at 600 Monroe Street in Dover.