Nashville — Running 13.1 miles up and down some of the steepest hills in Brown County State Park may sound more like work than fun.
But that added challenge — and the beauty of the park in fall — is precisely what will draw runners to the Brown County Hilly Half, race director Bill Bartley predicts.
The Nov. 12 race will be the first half-marathon in Brown County, and organizers hope it will become an annual tradition.
The event is primarily a fundraiser for the YMCA, executive director Kim Robinson said. However, it also serves the YMCA’s mission of building healthy spirits, minds and bodies.
Half-marathons — or mini-marathons — are the fastest growing segment of the running market, Bartley said.
They offer a challenge that’s less intimidating or grueling than a full marathon, said YMCA personal trainer Deanne Weaver, who has run in the Boston Marathon.
The Hilly Half also will include a 5K walk and run and 10K run, Bartley said.
Organizers, who are planning for 500 participants, hope to keep participants in the county the entire weekend, YMCA board member Brian Fenneman said.
“If they’ve never been to Brown County — never been to the park — once they come, once they’re introduced to the park, they’ll want to keep coming back,” Weaver said.
Events will kick off Nov. 11 with a children’s race on the Salt Creek Trail sponsored by McDonald’s restaurant, Fenneman said.
Saturday morning, live bands will play during warm-ups at the starting line, near the park’s Lower Shelter inside the north gate.
Runners will start up the park road behind the Saddle Barn to the Nature Center. They’ll run to the end of the Taylor Ridge campground, then turn around and head back to the park road. The second fork veers onto another road on top of a ridge and turns around just short of Hohen Point before heading back to the Saddle Barn.
Bartley expects the final downhill stretch to yield many runners a record on their mile splits.
When the racers return, they will be greeted by a Big Woods pizza party, music and a chance to swap run stories, Fenneman said.
The medals handed out to winners will be uniquely Brown County, Robinson said. The YMCA is working with local artisans to design them, and they may change each year.
The race has several sponsors so far and organizers are recruiting more, Robinson said. They still are looking for a main sponsor at $10,000 or two at $5,000.
Sponsorship can come in the form of direct funding or providing equipment or people, Bartley said.
Fenneman also estimated a need for around 100 volunteers with jobs such as setting up water points and standing along the route to guide runners which way to go, he said.
“Everybody that I’ve mentioned it to is very excited about it,” Robinson said.
Register online at browncountyymca.org/events/hilly-half by Nov. 7.
The greatest discounts are given to participants who register before Oct. 1. Early registration fees range from $20 for a 5K walker to $50 for a half-marathon runner.