The OhioHealth Cap City Half Marathon is celebrating 20 years with the 2023 race on April 29. Learn more about the race's history from a man that's run in every single one.
As Bob Golden prepared to enter his freshman year at St. Francis DeSales High School, he had a couple of important decisions to make: What sports teams to join. Football? Maybe. Soccer and baseball were possibilities.
How about cross country and track suggested his mother, Lela Golden.
“She said running was something you can do for your whole life,” said Golden, who took his mom’s advice to heart and ran cross country and track at DeSales, winning all-league honors in each sport.
Golden, 52, is still running.
On April 29, at the 20th Annual OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon & Quarter Marathon, he’ll run his 20th consecutive Cap City half marathon. Cap City is one of the largest and most well-organized half marathons in the country and Golden is in rather elite company, one of only about a dozen runners who have run the 13.1-mile race every year.
Golden has run Cap City in the heat, in the cold and in the rain. “One year it was snowing,” Golden remembered. “I was in the Short North and my shoe came untied. I went over to the side of the road to tie it and my hands were numb. They were like paws, and I couldn’t tie it. A lady [watching the race] came over and said ‘I’ll tie it for you.’”
His streak almost came to an end in 2020. The race was delayed a few months due to COVID and all the registered runners eventually ran “virtually,” by themselves, using the honor system. “I thought I broke my foot two weeks before Cap City,” Golden said. After X-rays proved negative, and his doctor told him he couldn’t do any further damage to his foot if he ran, Golden decided to give it a go and alternate running and walking. He fought through the pain and completed the 13.1-mile course he had designed in and around his Westerville neighborhood.
Golden first learned about the inaugural Cap City race in a column in Runner’s World written by John “The Penguin” Bingham, who co-founded the event along with David Babner (who is still the race director). “[Bingham] said ‘you can’t run ‘em all if you don’t run in the first one,’ so I signed up for the first one and that’s how I got started,” Golden said.
He was impressed that first year by the way the 2,799 runners and walkers were treated. He’d run in several 5K and 10K races and “after the race they gave you a banana and a glass of Gatorade and a stale banana,” Golden said.
Not at Cap City.
Runners get tickets. Lots of tickets. For beer and champagne (yes, champagne) and all sorts of food items, including a slice of hot pizza. The finish, Golden said, is a party, a celebration, complete with a band, “and you’re there with a bunch of people who have this shared experience.” This first-class treatment, Golden said, is why he keeps coming back, and why Cap City is a must-run on the calendars of so many local and even out-of-state runners.
Runners also got a long-sleeve, white T-shirt at the first race. This frayed T-shirt is one of Golden’s most-cherished possessions. He wears it once a year, at Cap City, of course, putting it one after he completes his 13.1-mile run. It’s a great conversation started with his fellow runners.
As Lela Golden predicted, running remains a huge part of her son’s life.
“The longer you sit down the harder it is to get back up,” Golden said. “I don’t want my physical well-being being to be the reason I don’t do something as I get older. I want to remain active and having this goal of running the half marathon every year to focus on creates that accountability. If I can get in shape for the half marathon in April, that will carry me through the rest of the year.”
OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon Facts
- More than 163,000 runners and walkers have participated in the half marathon, quarter marathon or 5K race, with almost 115,000 doing the signature 13.1-mile distance.
- Cap City hosted the USA Half Marathon Championships in 2016 and 2017, in partnership with USA Track & Field and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.
- The 2023 event is expected to have:
- 12,000 participants
- 40,000 spectators along the route
- 1,500 volunteers
- Every runner and walker will get a ticket for a slice of pizza