Half marathon coming to Durham ‘won’t be your typical race’

Ashleigh Bachert is the executive director of the Durham Sports Commission.
Ashleigh Bachert is the executive director of the Durham Sports Commission.

An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 women will take to the streets next St. Patrick’s Day, in running shoes.

The Durham Sports Commission announced this week it will hold a women’s half marathon and 8K on March 17.

It will be the group’s first women’s focused sporting event open to the public, executive director Ashleigh Bachert said. Registration opens Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Men can take part, but there are no special concessions for them. The event will only hand out T-shirts in women’s V-neck styles, and the guys can’t win any prizes.

“It won’t be your typical race if you’re a male running in it,” Bachert said.

Durham is relatively new to the half marathon, but Washington, D.C., Alpharetta, Georgia, and Napa, California, have hosted similar events. Bill Burke, president of Premier Event Management, which organizes the half marathons, was looking for a location for his next race.

“He fell in love with the Durham community,” Bachert said. He particularly liked the entrepreneurial spirit and diversity of the city.

“It makes total sense to me that an event like this would want to be in Durham, because our atmosphere and what we do is so inclusive,” said Shelly Green, president and CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bachert said women have a strong voice in the Durham sports world. N.C. Central University Athletic Director Ingrid Wicker McCree was named the Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year this year, and Duke and NCCU are home to numerous female sports teams.

“Durham has this ability to cultivate and support females, and they really try to make a name for themselves and for Durham,” she said.

But that may not be true across the country. Bachert, who played college softball, became the commission’s first executive director in January 2017. Nationwide, sports commissions only include about 10 percent women, she said.

“Sports is still a little bit of a male-dominated field,” she said. “But women are breaking into it more and more.”

The Durham Sports Commission, created in 2016, is one of six in North Carolina. The Durham Conventions and Visitors Bureau cannot directly use funds from the Durham occupancy tax on hotels to sponsor sports events, so they and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce created a sports commission that could.

“It’s not just about going and finding outside events to come to Durham,” Green said. “It’s about propping up our local teams who want to host tournaments.”

The visitors bureau manages the commission, hires staff members and helps with marketing, but the money to sponsor grants and events comes from the city and county.

The commission wants to keep families in Durham, so they can keep the money they spend on gas, shopping and sales tax in the city.

“We don’t want our local community members traveling out and spending their money in other communities,” Bachert said. “We’d rather bring people to us.”

More local events means saving money on transportation, too. Bachert said some families spend over $2,000 just getting to some events.

The commission has hosted the U.S. Women’s Curling association national meeting and an ACC Fan Fest. It has booked the USA track and field national youth championship for 2019.

The sports commission plans to hold the half marathon annually.

“So often in sports, we hear about the men,” Bachert said. “It’s Major League Baseball, it’s college men’s basketball, it’s football. ... It highlights that females can be endurance runners and females can be athletes.”

Want to know more?

The event starts and ends at Diamond View Park at the American Tobacco campus, and will follow the same route as Bull City Race Fest, going through downtown and near Duke’s East Campus. A $1,000 prize will be divided among the top finishers.

Registration opens at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8, for $1, but prices will increase as slots fill. Go to DurhamWomensHalf.events for details.

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