The course stretches the usual 26.2 miles of any other marathon, but each and every mile of the Columbus Marathon represents something special to runners.
In the 39th year of the marathon and the 13th year of the half-marathon, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon has become a staple in the Columbus running community and beyond. The marathon has grown to be the largest in Ohio and one of the top 20 in the U.S. thanks in part to its heartwarming cause.
Twenty-four of the total 26.2 miles are represented by Patient Champions, current or former patients of Nationwide Children’s, who were chosen based on various criteria, including diversity of diagnosis, age and enthusiasm to cheer on race participants at their mile. The remaining miles are the Encore Mile, honoring former Patient Champions, and the Angel Mile, celebrating the lives of patients no longer with us.
For Race Director Darris Blackford, the Patient Champions are a remarkable source of inspiration.
“Since our partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital began in 2012, I also am motivated by the kids who are involved each year as our Patient Champions,” Blackford said. “They are out there on the course for the runners and walkers to see and high-five, having a great time just being kids.”
Blackford has held his role with the event since 2010, but his relationship with the marathon dates back to when he first ran it in 1991. He said he remains inspired by the event in multiple ways each year, from the immense support from race directors, city officials and business leaders to the thousands of people who take on the physical and emotional challenges of running the marathon and half-marathon.
“The work that goes into getting ready for an event this size is so detailed and specific, so big and multi-layered, that just getting to be involved is gratifying and fulfilling,” Blackford said. “When it all comes together it has incredible positive energy and we just hang on for the ride!”
These layers of work have added up, totaling $7 million for Nationwide Children’s Hospital since it became the race’s title beneficiary, but the marathon gives back in other ways too. The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University previously estimated the race’s economic impact at $15 million annually. The Greater Columbus Sports Commission helps coordinate hotel agreements and track room nights to ensure that the Columbus Marathon is a leader in community impact to visitors. In this year alone, 18,000 participants from 46 states will show up to the starting line.
Aside from the numbers, the marathon is sure to provide an immeasurable amount of value to visitors, Columbus and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the years to come.
“The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon isn’t just a bunch of crazy runners and walkers,” Blackford said. “It is one of the cornerstone community events of the great place we call home.”
Visit our event calendar for information on more annual and unique events coming soon to Columbus.