The gun pops at 10am on Saturday, May 7, 2016 to mark the start of the 1st annual Happy Half Marathon and 5K at Holiday Valley Resort. Seasoned runners and first time racers are invited to come out and strut their stuff in this inaugural Mother’s Day weekend event that’s sure to be full of fun and laughter.
… Ahem … Hold up. For those of you not necessarily into the whole running thing (but can handle a little bit of distance), how does a beer break with some running in between sound? Anyone who loves beer can find solace in the Beer Mile race, where participants chug a beer every quarter mile. Four times the fun, 4 times the suffering with a beer buzz bonus!
And who can we thank for the Happy Half, 5K and Beer Mile race? Gwen and Doug Bush have been organizing fun and competitive events for a number of years now. Gwen says they got their start because of Doug’s passion for Ironman events. “Once he started competing, there was no turning back,” she said. They realized they liked the whole atmosphere of the races and the people who it attracted. “We just clicked with everyone - from the promoters and racers, to the volunteers.”
The Bushes are well-known Ellicottville locals and big supporters of EVL commerce and off-season business development. The idea of combining their love for competitive events and the town they live in just made sense. One thing lead to another and before they knew it, they were sketching out plans for the Happy Half’s predecessor, the EVL Half Marathon (which debuted in October 2014). “We chose to run half marathons rather than full marathons because we felt they reach a broader range of runners and abilities,” Gwen explained.
The Bushes decided that first local event needed to have a theme. “Ellicottville is so pretty in the fall; we decided to have the race around Halloween,” said Gwen. “Between the fall foliage and the racers, volunteers and spectators all dressed in costumes, it’s a pretty colorful event with some spooky surprises along the course.”
Following two successful EVL Half Marathons, Holiday Valley approached Doug and Gwen to see if they were interested in running a race at Holiday Valley in the spring of 2016. After some planning and collaborating, the Happy Half Marathon was born. This race is designed to be just a little bit easier than the EVL Half. (Think of it as the EVL Half’s friendly twin.) Gwen mentioned a few times that they really wanted to appeal to younger athletes, and that they couldn’t host these events without the help of many local volunteers.
“We have a wonderful network of local support,” she said. “Without our volunteer groups, it would be difficult to give our competitors the support they need out there on the course. Volunteers are a big part of what makes an event work well and we have the best.”
The Happy Half is one example of an “off-season” event that can ultimately result in bringing visitors to town during the slower months. Ellicottville has a lot to offer even when it’s not snowing. Hopefully events like this can grow to be weekend-long attractions that generate some additional tourism dollars.
Speaking of attractions, the Happy Half’s after-party itself is enough to attract a crowd! Southern Tier Brewing will be on site with plenty of their delicious craft brews. Awards, games, music and food will also be waiting for those who cross the finish line. As for the Beer Mile, it’s is an international competition that is tracked online at www.Beermile.com (so it’s totally legit!) Gwen guarantees there will be plenty of fun surprises for everyone at this year’s Happy Half.
You can register online now at www.happyhalfrun.com. Packet pick-up will take place Friday, May 6 between 4:30pm and 7pm and on Race Day from 7am-9:30am at Holiday Valley. Water stations and restrooms will be provided on course. If you decide to make a weekend of it, Holiday Valley is offering racers discounted room rates starting at $120. For more information, including course maps, race tips and more, go to www.happyhalfrun.com.