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May 24—One lane of Kansas Highway 177 from Interstate 70 into Manhattan was closed to vehicles and opened for foot traffic Saturday, as 800 people ran in the seventh annual Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon.
Runners dealt with light rain for the first portion of the half marathon, but the precipitation subsided by the time much of the field reached Poyntz Avenue. The clouds parted as participants crossed the finish line in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Event organizer and Manhattan Running Company owner Ben Sigle said he was glad there was no lightning with the morning's rain showers and that the event went smoothly. Along with the half marathon, the event also featured a 5K race and a virtual race — something Sigle said was part of the event from the beginning.
"We have so many people with ties to K-State who want to run but maybe can't make it for a weekend," Sigle said. "So, we had 100 virtual runners, along with about 1,300 in person."
For the virtual race, runners sent their race times and GPS-tracked routes to organizers.
Sigle said about 500 people participated in the 5K race in person. He said the total number of registered runners was down from previous years, but he is confident the number of participants will climb back to the 1,600-1,900 range in the future. Last year's half marathon took place on Labor Day weekend because of the pandemic and saw about 800 runners entered.
Last September, Sigle said the event was the first for Manhattan Running Company — and a lot of local runners — in the months since the pandemic began. Now, he says people are "tired of everything" and are ready for events like the half marathon.
"For the most part, people just like being out and being in the atmosphere (of the event) and getting back out to races," Sigle said.
Sylvia Lebron and Kenneth Figueroa each took second place in the marathon in their divisions. Lebron finished with a time of 1:26:38, while Figueroa crossed the line at 1:07:44.
Both are from Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. Lebron said they are traveling around the country competing in different races.
"We are trying to race around the United States, because in Puerto Rico they were closed but are just now opening up," Lebron said. "They just opened another race while we are here."
Before competing in the Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon, Figueroa won first place at a race in Lafayette, Louisiana. He said he will now return to Puerto Rico to train for more races, with the goal of participating in the 2024 Olympic Games, while Lebron returns to her career in the Army.
"More training, more training," Figueroa said.
This year's overall winner of the half marathon — his seventh win since the event began — was Joe Moore of Manhattan, with a time of 1:07:00. Figueroa took second place, and James Wilson, who was only listed as from Kansas, claimed third with a time of 1:08:09.
For the female division, Mandy Zimmerman of Junction City took first place with a time of 1:26:16. Lebron came in second, followed by Sydney Cochran of Manhattan in third place with a time of 1:33:34. Cochran said she last ran the marathon in 2016.
"My husband and I last year just wanted something to do to get out of the house, so we started running again," Cochran said. "I just think it's a great event for Manhattan; we've got great scenery, and they've got a great course set up."
The event's namesake, former KSU football coach Bill Snyder, was present for the awards ceremonies, greeting and taking photos with the runners. He said runners love to run regardless of weather conditions.
"I admire them so much," Snyder said. "When you look at the age range (of runners), a gentleman I was talking to is almost 90, and he runs it every single year."
Snyder, 81, said the pandemic led to him exercising more than usual, and he understands the "cabin fever" some people may be feeling after a year of pandemic protocols.
"I'm just pleased to see so many people, and from so many different places," Snyder said. "People just love to come and run in this event."
Besides Puerto Rico, the half marathon had runners registered from places like Massachusetts, Colorado, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
The half marathon and associated events also serve as fundraisers for different charities of Snyder's choice. Including this year's event, Sigle said seven years of proceeds from the half marathon total about $170,000.
"If we include all the Manhattan Running Company races over the last 13 years, we're at $300,000 donated to local charities," Sigle said. "Just the fact we've been able to give so much money makes me happy."