First-ever Helderberg-to-Hudson Half-Marathon to take place April 13

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
The Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail was the site of an Earth Day 5K last year organized by 16-year-old Ava DeSantis. The inaugural event attracted 35 runners. This year, ARE Event Productions is running a half-marathon on the trail for which 2,500 runners have signed up.

ALBANY COUNTY — Running without being chased, millions of Americans do it. And on Saturday, April 13, thousands of runners will descend on the area to participate in the first Helderberg-to-Hudson Half-Marathon.

“We’ve worked the New York City Marathon in a helping capacity for the past four years; we’ve also worked with Nike on some events for them, all over the country. And some of the things we’ve observed at events, we’ve seen other places, we really wanted to bring that to our home community,” said Josh Merlis, the half-marathon’s director.

Merlis’s company, ARE Event Productions, is putting on the race; the company provides technology and management services for running events.

“We’ve wanted to produce an event in our area for a while,” he said. “Most of our business is events [that] hire us.” With the recent completion of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, he said, it was an opportunity to showcase “this new gem in our community.”

Runners will start at New Scotland Town Park, run down Swift Road to Route 85A, take a right on to Mountainview Street, then take a left at Stonington Hill Road to meet back up with Route 85A, run east along Route 85A to Joslin Avenue, then take a right on to Dale Street, a left on Pine Street, north to Voorheesville Avenue to meet up with the rail trail, and from there it’s about nine miles along the rail trail to the Hudson River.

The course, Merlis said, will give runners a very good opportunity to set a personal record. “It’s a downhill course,” he said, meaning that entire race is one gradual decline, and coupled with a newly-paved rail trail, “people are going to run the fastest times of their lives.”

The half-marathon is one in a slate of races that are part of the Adirondack Grand Prix, sanctioned by the Adirondack Association, the local chapter of USA Track and Field, the national governing body of track and field, long-distance running, and race-walking in the United States. “If someone goes to the Olympics, it’s through the USATF,” Merlis said.

“What’s particularly unique and exciting for us is that we were selected to be part of it in our in our first year,” he said.

Other than the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K, which Merlis points out has been around for over 40 years, the Helderberg-to-Hudson Half-Marathon will be the second largest event in the Adirondack Grand Prix, which consists of eight races of varying lengths.

With about 2,500 people signed up (registration is now closed), Merlis said he was unaware of any event in a city the size of Albany that has had so many participants in its first year. His company has worked for about 1,200 running events in 20 states since 2003.

By showcasing the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, Merlis said, he hopes the event bolsters the trail’s use and encourages the state as well as local governments to expand the trail networks throughout the Capital Region. He noted that a blueprint for expansion — the Capital District Trails Plan — was recently put out by the Capital District Transportation Committee.

To do its part, the Helderberg-to-Hudson Half-Marathon will be donating a portion of its registration fees to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, which has championed the rail trail.

“We want to invest in finishing trails in our community,” Merlis said.