The Geneva Half Marathon & Relay presented by Red Jacket Orchard is coming up.
It’s a summertime staple along the shores of Seneca Lake in Geneva, which plays host to a number of prominent running events throughout the year. Just last weekend the 77.7-mile Seneca7 was held drawing hundreds to Ontario County.
The Geneva Half Marathon is a 13.1-mile race that benefits the Geneva Boys & Girls Clubs, the Geneva YMCA, and other Finger Lakes charities.
Earlier this week, we caught up with Eric Heieck who organizes the event each year with his wife and a team of dedicated volunteers.
“The City of Geneva has been such a great partner with us,” Heieck said. “The Welcome Center, Taste of NY- we couldn’t do it without them as well. We’ve got volunteers all along the race route, and the town has been great as well.”
The Geneva Half was started by Heieck and his wife, who came to running later in life. “We were in our late-30s,” he recalled. “But our family was still young, and the [half marathon] course was made up of routes we ran regularly. Running is a year-round thing, and we started to think about how we could show our family a way of giving back to the community.”
Then the race took off- drawing hundreds to Geneva annually. “The City and Town were exceptional partners, but this really quickly became a way for us to showcase the Finger Lakes,” Heieck continued. “I always tell people, ‘If you can find a better place to run at the same time as our race – go do it, but we have an incredible venue here’.”
Each year, Heieck and the team reach out to runners for feedback. How challenging is the course? What was the experience like? Did you feel safe? The answers are what help shape future editions of the Geneva Half Marathon. While the course is set every 10 years, a benchmark the Geneva Half is quickly approaching, other things like runner safety are constantly being tweaked.
“We want everyone who participates, no matter their running level to feel safe at this event,” Heieck continued. “We prioritize safety, which is what makes the Geneva Half Marathon a great one for beginners or longtime runners.” Unlike a lot of other half- or full-marathons the course doesn’t get shut down after a few hours. Heieck says the team makes sure everyone finishes. And finishes safely.