Political dignitaries, local business men and members of the media gathered on the shores of The Big Lake Wednesday morning for an important announcement.
According to executive director Debbie Gillette, the Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce is deep into preparations for hosting its first-ever half-marathon.
This inaugural event is set for Sunday, Sept. 29. It will begin at the Lakeside Elementary School in Honesdale and conclude on the Wallenpaupack Area High School track.
"We're very happy to actually announce this," Debbie said just moments after addressing a crowd at the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center.
"We've been champing at the bit to say something since way back in August. Now that it's all finally out there, we hope that this becomes an annual event and that it gets a little bigger every year."
Race directors Christie Kennedy Augustine and Bob Kiesendahl were also on hand to help share the news. Both are members of the chamber's board and each is excited to be playing an active role.
"We really wanted to bring an event to the area that's healthy and fun, but also kind of unique," Christie said.
"As a coach and an athlete myself, I think this is the type of thing that can really take off and become a yearly event."
Kiesendahl was quick to concur.
"This is just fantastic and I have no doubt that it will take off after this first one," he said. "Based on all the support and feedback we're already getting, I think it's going to be a huge event."
The inaugural "Pocono Lake Region 13.1" will get underway Sunday, Sept. 29 in Honesdale.
The starter's gun for this half-marathon will sound at precisely 8 a.m., sending runners on their way from Lakeside Elementary toward the finish line at Paupack's sports complex.
Page 2 of 3 - As with most distance courses in NEPA, this one is anything but boring.
The Pocono Lake Region 13.1 winds through several local communities. There are long flat stretches, rolling hills, challenging climbs and scenic splendor as far as the eye can see.
Most of the course is rural and situated on back roads. There are markers at every mile and water/aid stations every two miles.
"As a runner, it's definitely going to be a challenge," Bob said. "But, it's also going to be very scenic and enjoyable. I'm looking forward to it."
The route will remain open for a total of four hours. Members of local law enforcement, medical personnel and the PA State Police have also stepped up to help keep everyone safe.
So far, the idea has received a warm reception across the board.
"One of the bigger goals was to involve several local communities and school districts," Christie said. "Wayne Highlands, Western Wayne and Wallenpaupack are all embracing it."
A portion of the proceeds generated by the Pocono Lake Region 13.1 will go do help Marley's Mission.
A non-profit organization founded in 2009, the sole purpose of Marley's Mission is to help children who've been the victim of physical, psychological or emotional trauma.
Based in Lake Ariel, Marley's Mission uses 10 horses in a gentle "equine therapy" approach. The hope is that interaction with these beautiful, gentle and intelligent creatures will help the healing process.
"We're so happy that the Pocono Lake Region Chamber is stepping up to help," Marley's Mission founder April Loposky.
"We're a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, so we're very grateful to be a part of this new event."
Page 3 of 3 - Since its inception, the organization has assisted more than 60 children from seven counties in central and northeastern PA.
By the Numbers
If you'd like to compete in the inaugural Pocono Lake Region 13.1, please visit the Chamber website at lakeregioncc.com.13.1.
There will be online registration only for this first half-marathon.
Entry fee is $55 per person for runners aged 16 and over. Deadline to sign up is August 1.
Participants may pick up their "Runner's Packet" at the Visitors Center from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28. There will be no raceday registration of pick-up on Sept. 29.
Chip timing and scoring will be provided by Fast Finishes. Commemorative t-shirts and medals to all participants. Special awards to first place finishers in each age group.