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Over 900 participants crossed the D&L Heritage Half Marathon Run/Walk Sunday afternoon.

More than 900 people from states near and far laced up their running shoes and hit the trail for the annual D&L Heritage Half Marathon Run/Walk.

The event started at Northern Lehigh’s school campus and ended at the Canal Street Park in Northampton.

The smoothly grated and easily inclined course traveled the Slate Heritage Trail starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, under cloudy skies and cool weather.

“It’s perfect running weather,” said Michael Drabenstott, Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor board of directors chairman.

“It’s calm and cool,” he said.

Race spectators Holly Hebron and Deana Ferry, accompanied by tan Pomeranian Trixie, cheered runners on along the course near the 10-mile stretch.

“It’s a perfect time of year, not too hot,” Ferry said.

The pair waited along the side of the trail, playing upbeat dance music and clapping for runners after seeing friend Mary Beth Kovach jog by the 10-mile marker.

“They still have a couple miles left so they need the lift,” Ferry said.

“We saw our people already, but then we stayed because the runners just like the cheering,” Hebron said.

“People really appreciated it,” Baker said.

Drabenstott said, “The crowd support is awesome, it really gets people through the race.”

Athletes agreed, saying sideline support was instrumental in helping getting them across the finish line.

“At the 7- to 9-mile stretch was the most difficult for me. You’re not counting the minutes just yet,” said second-time runner Thomas Karlick.

The Allentown resident said the trail and crowd encouragement are what make the marathon special.

“It’s a scenic and serene course. It helps keep you occupied and there is a great group of people,” he said.

“It was nice to have people along the way,” said second-time marathon runner Mat Benol.

Drabenstott said the half marathon has grown each year in part due to the walker-friendly course.

“People come in from 17 states as far away as Washington to Montana. It’s really getting a reputation as a high-quality fall-time half marathon,” he said.

First-time D&L marathon walker Laura Eppler said the well-maintained and graded trail are what helped her get her tail on the trail Sunday morning.

“I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2002, Steamtown Marathon, in 2009 and the Boston Marathon in 2010,” Eppler said.

“I had to give up running just over a year ago because of knee problems, and began power walking as an alternative way to stay fit. The D&L Half Marathon is the only half marathon in the region that welcomes walkers as well as runners, so I decided to participate,” she said.

Benol, a Palmer Township resident and county council board member said, “This is what your tax dollars are meant for. It’s heavily used and well-maintained. This is part of preserving the land. I don’t think as many people get to travel on the D&L as they should,” he said.

Bernadette Baker or Portland enjoyed potato leek soup at the after-race buffet in the Hungarian Club hall during the award ceremony. Decked out in colorful running gear, Baker said she and her group, the Red White and Blue Team of the Lehigh Valley, were motivated to complete the 13-mile-long race in honor of fallen veterans the group advocates for. This year’s race was Baker’s second time down the course and she hopes to collect more teammates for the next marathon.

“Next year we want to make it a bigger (Red, White, Blue) event,” she said.

The marathon’s fast runners this year were Jenna Papaz with one hour and 24 minutes and Jeffrey Young finishing at one hour and 17 minutes.


Top 10 Overall

1. Jeffrey Young, Bryn Mawr, 1:17:35.4

2. Mark Ayres, Quakertown, 1:21:29.2

3. Kenny Quigley, Dunmore, 1:22:22.6

4. Josh Falk, West Reading, 1:23:23.6

5. Jenna Papaz, Bethlehem, 1:24:18.8

6. Daniel Cummings, Westfield, NJ, 1:24:23.3

7. Andrew Lefer, Paramus, NJ, 1:25:06.3

8. Brandon Weaver, Allentown, 1:26:20.8

9. Guy De Bruyn, Wind Gap, 1:27:54.6

10. Whitney Heydenreich, Danville, 1:28:30.4

Mat Benol crosses the finish line Sunday during the annual D&L Half Marathon. KELLEY ANDRADE/TIMES NEWS.