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The Tower to Town Race, an annual 10-mile trail run, is normally held rain or shine.

This year, the third for the event, weather won’t be the issue – the larger one of a global pandemic has had to be taken into consideration. But go on it will in a special “COVID Edition” – with a few modifications in place, of course.

Registration has just opened for this year’s event, slated for Sunday, Oct. 4. It will be for solo runners only; no relay racing will be held. 

“We were able to glean a lot of information from the Tour de Lebanon Valley bike ride – we just completed that in July,” Laurie Crawford, executive director of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy, said in a phone interview. Part of the proceeds of the race benefit the conservancy. 

Read More: Tour de Lebanon a hit despite pandemic, raises $8K for Coleman’s bike playground

“We learned lessons about staggered starts and prepackaged food and water bottles instead of water stations, masks at the beginning, masked and gloved volunteers. Those are some of the things we learned from our last event and we hope to carry on through this event,” she added.

So the start of the race will be staggered by means of a signup form, said Nicole Maurer, executive director of the Community Health Council of Lebanon Valley. Part of the proceeds from the race benefit the council as well.

“We will recommend elite, self-identified (runners) go off first, and then by age group,” Maurer said. “But if someone wants to go with a different group, they just have to sign up for it.” 

“We don’t feel that it’s safe to provide the transportation,” Crawford said. “It’s been a point-to-point race, so we provided bus transportation – this year, we’re changing it to a loop, hopefully just for this year. The starting point is the ending point.”

Runners will wear masks when they arrive and register, and then they can begin the race, Crawford said.

This year’s route can be found below or here in interactive form.

It begins and ends at Clarence Schock Memorial Park, 3283 Pinch Rd., Lebanon. Five and a half miles of it take place on the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. Organizers say this is a good course for runners training for a fall half or full marathon.

In another modification, the traditional after party following the race will not be held.

“There won’t be a finish line per se because it’s going to be an individual timed race; it’ll be a staggered start,” Crawford said. “So people will get to the end, they’ll be able to get their refreshments, and they will go. We’ll have a virtual awards ceremony later in the evening.” Maurer added that winners will receive their awards by mail.

First place overall racers will receive gift cards to local businesses, Maurer said. 

“Recognition will (also) go to the top three males and females in each age group – 19 and Under, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70+,” she added. 

And all racers will receive a seedling for participating.

“We’ve always given away trees as part of the awards for being a runner in this race and that will continue this year,” Crawford said. “We always do want to make sure each runner gets a tree to make sure we continue to beautify Lebanon County. Runners have always been responsive that that is one of their favorite parts of this race.”

Last year’s top female placer Olivia Guilbert, age 28, is pictured with a tree, the prize given to all participants. Guilbert finished with a time of 1:10:11. (Becky Woodhouse/Level Eleven)

The other portion of the proceeds from the race benefit the construction of the John E. Wengert Memorial Park on Chestnut St., which will be located on part of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. Wengert, a dairy farmer, was the founding chair of the Lebanon Valley Conservancy. As with most else these days, Phase I of the park, which was to start this year, is on hold.

“We are still waiting to hear on some grant funding,” Crawford said. “The park concept has been going on for many, many years and we just continue to try and look for funding to make it possible. This race will again benefit that park, even though it’s still in some design and grant searching phase of the project.”

To date, the race has raised about $10,000 for the park, Crawford said.

Read More: Wengert Memorial Park packs big vision in small site, new anchor for rail trail

There has been a good response from potential race sponsors so far, she said.

“I’ve already taken in a few,” Crawford said. “I think businesses are looking to survive as well, and if a small sponsorship can help put their names out, (they will do it). Nicki and I find it important to support the businesses in Lebanon and keep them going as well. We get their material in the swag bag for the racers; they get on the shirts and the banners. It’s a nice way to promote the businesses in Lebanon County.”

Maurer said current sponsors include RunPA, Fulton Bank, and First Citizens Community Bank.

Crawford said past runners were surveyed on whether they were willing to and felt safe to run this year and if they would accept the loop course. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said they wanted to run again. Two hundred racers competed in last year’s event.

“Our expectation is that we would have the same amount of racers as last year at least, again based on the fact that that’s what happened with our bike ride,” Crawford said.

So they knew the event had to go on, public health crisis or no.

“They’re well aware of what’s going on in the world and they still wanted to run,” she said. “Nicki has always really pushed the idea that what we need in these times is to stay active, to stay healthy. We noticed that people are using nature as their stress reliever, as their family time, and as their exercise, and so we really want to maximize what’s already happening.

“I think by not having events, that is challenging for people — they’re used to competing, they’re used to getting ready for races and running and training. And that is why we’ve always wanted to try and find ways to do events like this, safely and carefully,” she added.

And they didn’t want to skip a year if they didn’t have to, she said.

“We’re excited about this — we hope that this is a long-term event to support the park,” she said, adding that when the park is completed, the race will be used to maintain and beautify the park. “We’re really hoping to keep this event going.”

The day’s schedule is as follows:

  • 8 – 9:15 a.m. – Open registration at Clarence Schock Memorial Park
  • 9:30 a.m. – Race start
  • 4 – 4:30 p.m. – Virtual awards ceremony

To register, visit www.RunReg.com.

Registration is $40 if postmarked before Sept. 20 and $50 if postmarked after Sept. 20 (including the day of the race). Entries include a winter hat if registered by Sept. 20; after that date and the day of the race, they will be available while supplies last.


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