Charles officials hope half marathon enlivens county economy

Nicole Stewart of Waldorf and Mark McFarland of Swan Point have been training for this weekend's St. Charles half marathon.
Nicole Stewart of Waldorf and Mark McFarland of Swan Point have been training for this weekend's St. Charles half marathon. (Emily Barnes/maryland Independent)
By Nancy Bromley McConaty
Maryland Independent
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Charles County officials hope hundreds of runners from around the region will flock to St. Charles this weekend and, in the process, help reenergize the area's economy while raising money for the local United Way chapter.

Designed to showcase the county's tourism benefits, including Regency Furniture Stadium and Indian Head Rail Trail, the events Saturday and Sunday will include a half marathon (13.1 miles), a 5K run/walk, one-mile fun run and a runners expo.

"Our goal is to increase the number of events and visitors to Charles County," said George L. Robertson, country economic development director. "So far, the response has been very good."

The half marathon is part of a 15-city nationwide series sponsored by the U.S. Runners Association, said Dean Reinke, owner of Reinke Sports Group in Florida, a sports marketing and sponsorship firm. The association is a branch of Reinke's business that oversees the tour.

He said the St. Charles event easily could draw from 500 to 700 participants, noting that a similar event in Arkansas attracted 2,700 runners a few weeks ago.

"Our goal is to grow this into an annual event," he said, adding that half marathons are becoming as popular with runners as marathons.

The event, sponsored by Lennar home builders, American Community Properties Trust and the county Department of Economic Development and Tourism, also aims to raise at least $5,000 for the United Way of Charles County, said Craig Renner, American Community Properties Trust spokesman.

The runners association has a contract with American Community Properties Trust and Lennar to stage the half marathon in St. Charles for three years, Reinke said.

"Something like this attracts tourists and a major event like this will really make Charles County stand out," he said. "A lot of people are coming who have moved away from the area and want to come back for the half marathon. It will be a sort of homecoming event for them."

Pennsylvania resident Tracy Sniscak is coming home to St. Charles to run the half marathon. Her husband, Steve, will participate in the 5K walk/run with her 70-year-old father, Waldorf resident Larry Archie.

Sniscak said she grew up in St. Charles' Carrington neighborhood in the 1970s and '80s. Sniscak, an avid participant in marathons, said she wouldn't miss the chance to run on her home turf.

For Mark MacFarland, American Community Properties Trust's vice president for land development, the half marathon is a great way to start getting in shape.

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