2015 Spirit Award Winners: Where are they now?

Editor’s Note: We reached out to our Spirit Award winners from 2015 to see how they are doing and to tell us what the Spirit Award meant to them. 

Alyson and Andrea Hoffman

Last year’s inspiring twins and Spirit Award winners Alyson and Andrea Hoffman will once again be part of this year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus 1/2 Marathon.  The 15-year olds, both of whom are treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for cystic fibrosis, continue to be champions and advocates of good health and exercise and credit running with “keeping their lungs clear.”

Alyson and Andrea said the Spirit Award changed their whole outlook while running their first half marathon.

“We think it’s an awesome thing that the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon has a Spirit Award to honor and inspire those who are running and those living with disease or disabilities or overcoming other major obstacles,” they said.

Do you know someone who has overcome major obstacles to train for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon or 1/2 Marathon on Oct. 16? Please submit a nomination to Sarah Irvin Clark at Sarah@IrvinPR.com by Friday, Sept. 2. Check here for more details.

2015 Spirit Award Winners: Where are they now?

Jenn Marathon13 - Copy

Editor’s Note: We reached out to our Spirit Award winners from 2015 to see how they are doing and to tell us what the Spirit Award meant to them. Following is one of the stories.

Jenn Smiechowski
While training for the 2015 Marathon, Jenn, who had been an avid runner, developed a life-threatening tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate). She recovered, but the diagnosis of her condition meant that for the sake of her health, she should never distance run again; so she decided to walk the 1/2 Marathon in 2015.

Jenn said it was an “amazing and humbling experience” to stand beside other Spirit Award winners who had overcome various obstacles and life-changing experiences to be a part of the 2015 race.

About a half mile from the finish line, her heart rate spiked, but Jenn was able to cross the finish line and she said it was one of the most fulfilling and memorable races she ever completed.

“My husband and I made it a point to high-five every patient champion and to really take in the course, crowds, volunteers and bands who make the race so amazing and he will be walking the half for me this year,” Jenn said. She continues to keep fitness a priority and walks two to three miles a few times each week.

Do you know someone who has overcome major obstacles to train for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon or 1/2 Marathon on Oct. 16? Please submit a nomination to Sarah Irvin Clark at Sarah@IrvinPR.com by Friday, Sept. 2. Check here for more details.

An Afternoon With Race Director Darris Blackford

IMG_4119Confession: I might have been a little star struck. OK maybe VERY star struck. But it isn’t every day that you are given the chance to chat with the Race Director of the Columbus Marathon and I had been given that chance.

After my last blog I had this idea that it would be cool to get to know Darris Blackford a little bit better. I’ve run Columbus numerous times, but really knew little about the man running the event. As a runner from the back of the pack, I was curious to see if I could relate to him. I have often wondered if race directors notice the folks in the middle and back of a race. I could not have been more surprised.

When I arrived at Thomas Worthington High School for my afternoon walk with Darris, I was greeted by a very unassuming looking middle aged man, with graying hair, and the proverbial lean build of a runner. But he offered me a wide smile and quickly came over to greet me as though we were longtime friends.

For the entire week leading up to this meeting, I had been thinking that I might just do a formal interview, but in that moment, I thought that it would be nice to just walk and talk. Sometimes the best way to get to know someone is to keep the conversation casual.

So, at 6pm we set off for our walk. I knew that Darris had injured himself the previous weekend while taking part in the Burning River 100. However, Darris was quick to check and see how my back was doing after injuring it the week before. After getting some general chit chat out of the way, we got down to business. “So why are we here” Darris asked. I told him that I wanted to take the time to get to know the man behind the race a little bit better. I asked him about his experience running 200 marathons and if he could identify a favorite. He was surprisingly quick with his choice, “Marine Corps, there is something about being able to see DC while on foot with no traffic.” For the next twenty minutes or so, Darris was happy to give me these little tidbits about himself, and sure, this was interesting and fun to learn about a fellow runner. Yet, when I was driving home and found myself still smiling from my encounter, I knew that I had gotten so much more.

More than anything else, Darris is a man who loves people and the community he calls home. This is what drives him to make the marathon the best experience possible, for both the participants and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. His passion for the race and his work left me feeling inspired and proud that our city had such a fine event. More than that, I was no longer doubting that he notices ALL of his running and walking participants. He was more than encouraging about the 12 hour run I had coming up and reminded me that I needed to have fun that day.

Yet, some of our conversation was at times sobering and I had a glimpse about the realities of managing such a large scale event. I admit, it is easy to take for granted all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into executing a marathon. While positive and engaging, Darris was quick to point out that the negative feedback about the race could sometimes be tough to hear. I got the sense that, his drive comes from trying to ensure that all participants have an enjoyable event, so when he hears otherwise, he takes it personally. He admitted that he has had to grow some thicker skin over the years. As someone who has finished four Columbus Marathons, the quality continues to improve every year.  I know this is due, in large part, to the dedication of Darris and his staff.

In the end, I can’t tell you every little detail I learned about Darris over the course of an hour. What I can tell you is that Columbus is truly lucky to have such an individual as the race director. I can tell you, that he made me feel as though I was just as important as any elite athlete out there. I can tell you that he greatly cares about the health of the community here in Columbus-hence the partnership with the hospital and the desire to raise as much money as possible, so that children can continue to get the healthcare they need.

I can also tell you that one message was very clear, “be kind to yourself and have fun.”

Thank you Darris for your time and inspiration! Hope to see you October 16th!

About the author: Shannon McLoughlin Morrison has her Ph.d. in Education Policy and Leadership. She is an avid runner and coach for Marathoners in Training. She also has two pet house rabbits.

Follow her blog: https://lovelaughliverun.wordpress.com/

Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lovelaughliverun

Twitter: @Buckeye_Bunny

Instagram: buckeyebunny


Running for Life

IMG_3931What does it mean to “Run for Life?” When I first started running, I heard people who described themselves as ‘lifelong runners.’ I really had no clue what they meant by this particular term, or why they might apply it to themselves. It didn’t really occur to me to spend much time thinking about it either. Until now. I recently found myself using the term to describe myself and my running career. I’ve been at it for 14 years, run countless races, 20-something half marathons, and Columbus will be my ninth full marathon. I haven’t even thrown in the few ultras I’ve done.

I don’t say any of this to brag. I am writing about it because it dawned on me that life moves really quickly and it is so easy to find ourselves at a point where we forget why we do this every day.

Currently I volunteer as a pace coach for Marathoners in Training (MIT). A couple of weeks ago I had an important conversation with a participant who was returning to running after having some time off. A position that most of us will find ourselves in at one point or another. This particular participant was expressing concern over the fact that her pace had slowed considerably. Should she be worried? Was she doing something wrong?

There is often a fear that if we don’t return to running as the same athlete we were before we left that something is wrong. This experience can be very frustrating and unnerving. It can be easy to start feeling sorry for ourselves. I know exactly what this feels like. I’ve felt this more than a few times and faced the internal struggle of why I keep going back out there.

When I first started MIT more than 10 years ago, my training pace was a 10:30. At one point, I was running my long runs at a 9:30 pace. I won a few age group awards at local races. I really felt like I could call myself a runner. Soon after I started graduate school and my pace slowed to an 11:30. Next thing I know I am coaching the 13:00’s and struggling to get my tempo pace below 11:30.

The glorious thing about being a ‘lifelong’ runner is the opportunity to watch ourselves grow and challenge ourselves in new ways. Maybe one season we pick up the pace a bit, but another we just need to hang on for dear life. Running mimics real life. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day and forget to enjoy the time we’ve been given.

On your journey to chase down your dreams, don’t overlook the value of the ride. In just a few months you will be handed your medal and a bottled water and you’ll feel accomplished. But don’t forget how you got there. Savor the details, the runs, the sweat, and tears. The journey is what makes the race so great.

This year I have set a goal for myself. I want to enjoy the journey more. Sure, I would love to come in under 5 hours and maybe I will. Mostly, I just want to savor the experience. Life moves fast and moments are often lost to us. I used to run for the medal or the shirt, but I find myself running more for the enjoyment of being out there daily.

Embrace the run, embrace the journey, and embrace your life!

About the author: Shannon McLoughlin Morrison has her Ph.d. in Education Policy and Leadership. She is an avid runner and coach for Marathoners in Training. She also has two pet house rabbits.

Follow her blog: https://lovelaughliverun.wordpress.com/

Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lovelaughliverun

Twitter: @Buckeye_Bunny

Instagram: buckeyebunny

Join us for RunFest 2016 on July 9

We are excited to invite you to our 7th annual non-running, running event – RunFest – to kick-off your training for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon! This year’s event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on July 9th at the Capital University Field House.

All runners and walkers are welcome – those who already started their training can gain insight on their progress and receive more information about tackling the 13.1 or 26.2-mile-course in October.

Additionally, there will be free food, booths featuring local retailers and charities, seminars and music. And, carrying on the RunFest tradition, the 2016 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon medal and shirt designs will be unveiled, and the 2016 Patient Champions from Nationwide Children’s Hospital will be introduced.

1pm – Welcome and introduction of Patient Champions
1:45-2:15 pm- Seminar Session #1 (Seminars A & B)
2:30-3:00 pm- Seminar Session #2 (Seminars A & C)
3:15-3:45 pm- Seminar Session #3 (Seminars C & D)

*Please register for any seminars that you would like to attend via this Eventbrite link.


Seminar A: Run Like a Champion Panel- Your registration gets you to the start line, but how do you bring along all of your friends and family and make a real difference at Nationwide Children’s Hospital? Our panel of top fundraising Children’s Champions will discuss the ins and out of fundraising and perks that will make your race day experience unforgettable.

Seminar B: Run for the Grin: Mental Training for Marathons- Dr. Jen Carter’s wonderful experience in the sport of swimming drove her to the career of sport psychology. She is the Director of Sport Psychology at Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center. In this role, she provides mental health and performance psychology counseling to OSU athletes, road warriors, sports medicine patients, clients with body image issues, and individuals in the community. Dr. Carter is a counseling psychologist with specialties in sport psychology and eating disorders. She strives to help adults and adolescents achieve peak performance in multiple life domains.

Seminar C: How the Words “Only,” “But” and “Slow” are Ruining Your Running- Columbus Marathon and 1/2 Marathon’s own, Star Blackford motivates you to run your best race ever.

Seminar D: #Winning@Columbus- Hear from former Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon Winners Jason Ordway and Christina Murphy on the winning strategies for running this course.

We can’t wait to see you there!

RunFest At A Glance:

WHAT: RunFest

WHERE: Capital University Field House. See directions here.

WHEN: Saturday, July 9 from 1 to 4 p.m

WHY: Meet hundreds of other Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon participants, get free food and swag, hear presentations that will enhance your training, meet 2016 Patient Champions, and more!






26.2 Training Kick-offs Taking Place This Weekend!

With the marathon four months away, it is time to start preparing for the distance ahead. This weekend, we have TWO opportunities to get your head in the game as you start training for 26.2:

  • Saturday, June 11 from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon Race Director Darris Blackford will be answering all your training questions during a Facebook Live video stream event. If you have a question for Darris, please post it on Facebook and Twitter this week and he will address it then.
  • Sunday, June 12 from 3 pm to 5 pm: Join us in-person for a “26.2 Miles in 2016 Training Kick-Off” that will feature marathon training information including exclusive tips on the 2016 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon course, a complimentary yoga class specific to runners (the first 45 people to register here will get into this session, bring your own yoga mat!) and free food from FUSIAN and Smoothie King. The event will take place at Modo Yoga Columbus, 1042 Dublin Rd, Grandview Heights. Check out our Facebook Event page for more information and to register. For specific questions about the yoga class, send an email to info@modoyogacolumbus.com.

Note that RunFest 2016 is still happening on July 9 from 1 pm to 4 pm at Capital University Field House. We’re looking forward to these events to get you pumped up to complete 26.2 or 13.1 on Sunday, Oct. 16!

Sister Cities Exchange Applications Due May 15

Each year we hold athlete exchanges with some of Columbus’ international sister cities that also have a marathon or half marathon. The longest such exchange has been with Dresden, Germany – this is our fifth-year anniversary!

This year the Dresden Marathon and Half Marathon races are one week after ours, and five athletes will travel between each city to take part in the events. As part of the exchange, the athletes will stay with host families in each city.

Are you an athlete who would like to apply to be a Columbus Marathon Ambassador at the Dresden Marathon and Half Marathon? Visit www.dresdensistercity.org or watch this video

to learn more about the exchange and apply online here by May 15. Want to host an athlete from Dresden? Send a note to dresdensistercity@gmail.com.

Last year we expanded our athlete exchange program to Hefei, China, and Curitiba, Brazil, and will continue these partnerships in 2016.

Three athletes will get the chance to represent Columbus at the Hefei International Marathon on November 12, and another trio will take part in the Maratona Curitiba on November 20. As with the Dresden partnership, efforts are under way to have athletes from these cities take part in our race on October 16.

For information on becoming an ambassador for Columbus in China or Brazil, fill out the application found online here by May 15. Want to host an athlete from Hefei or Curitiba? Send a note to TSword@columbussistercities.org.

Good luck!

Group before Start

Boston Marathon Guess-A-Thon

Each year, close to 20 percent of the participants in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon qualify for the Boston Marathon. However, you don’t need to be a qualifier to join the fun of the Boston Marathon!


To celebrate one of the biggest races of the year, we’re bringing back our Boston Marathon Guess-A-Thon Contest and giving you FOUR chances to win a $100 gas card!

From April 10 to April 17, we will accept one guess per person on our Facebook page for each of the following from the April 18th Boston Marathon finishing times:

  • Fastest male from Ohio
  • Fastest female from Ohio
  • Fastest American male
  • Fastest American female

Post your best guess of the times for the fastest finishers on our Facebook wall and make sure to get specific – it could all come down to the second!

Contest rules: Winners may only win once and we will accept the next best guess in order to determine the winner if one participant guesses the right time in more than one category. If ties arise, we will pick a name out of a hat to determine the winners. Share your best guess on our Facebook timeline within the time frame.

Want to play? Like our Facebook page! Ready, set, guess!


As many of you know, we hold an annual food drive in January for Mid-Ohio Food Bank at running stores throughout Central Ohio (and those who live far away had the opportunity to donate online). After running all over Central Ohio to pick up all the canned goods and raffle entries, we randomly drew the names of 20 lucky folks who will receive a complimentary entry to either the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon or 1/2 Marathon on Oct. 16.

And now — for the announcement of the 20 lucky winners…drumroll please!
Rich James
Randy Treep
Jen Paulus
Wayne Chapman
Mark Wesney
Kari Brown Budde
Sarah Seither
Kelly Helton
John McMullin
Katy Daker
Kelly Meacham
Ben Bruno
Clint Stephens
Lauren Fisk
Nathan Lutz
Chris Taylor
Sherry Smith
Burgundie Miceli
Alex Headings
Lisa Halley

We will be reaching out to each of the winners within the next two weeks to make arrangements for their free entry. Please email registration@columbusmarathon.com if you have any questions.

Many thanks to all of you who donated — because of your generosity, we were able to raise hundreds of dollars for Mid-Ohio Foodbank and donate much-needed canned goods to families in need throughout Central Ohio.


Darris Blackford, Race Director

2016 Race Director’s Challenge

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 5.02.32 PMThe New Year is upon us! Whether it’s a part of your New Year’s resolution or an annual tradition, if you’re looking to run the 2016 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon or 1/2 Marathon, we have a great opportunity for you! The NCHCM Race Director Challenge gives you a chance to win one of 20 free entries for our race – while doing good for our Columbus community!

Once again, we will hold a food drive throughout the month of January. Simply drop off non-perishable food items at any of the following Columbus-area running stores: Columbus Running Company (4 locations), Fleet Feet & Front Runner (3 locations), or Second Sole (2 locations). When you do, fill out an entry card for a chance to win one of 20 free entries into our 2016 Marathon or ½ Marathon. Only one entry per person will be accepted.

So, what is the “Challenge” part? We want to collect 2,016 items! All the goods we collect will be donated to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Help us achieve this goal and get one step closer to achieving yours, all while helping others!