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Susquehanna Running Festival to return to Havre de Grace, Perryville next year

Susquehanna Running Festival to return to Havre de Grace, Perryville next year
Runners make their way through the course after the start of the half marathon during the Susquehanna River Running Festival Sept. 15. On Monday night, the city of Havre de Grace approved the return of the festival in 2019. (Bobby Parker for The Aegis)

Runners, get ready to take your mark again in the fall in Havre de Grace — the Susquehanna River Running Festival is returning.

At its meeting Monday night, the Havre de Grace City Council gave unanimous approval for the event, which will be held Sept. 28, two weeks later than this year’s inaugural race. It drew more than 1,000 runners for the 5K, relay and half marathon.

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Organizers, who still need approval from the Town of Perryville, are hoping to add a 10K to the 2019 festival, but are still working out the logistics and getting approvals, said Dominic Corson, the Cesky Scholarship Committee chairman.

“We definitely want to do a 10K because I think it’s going to be popular. It gives runners a range of options, the 5K, the 10K, the relay or half-marathon,” Corson said.

The half-marathon and half-marathon relay started in Havre de Grace then crossed the Hatem Bridge into Perryville, looped around Perry Point and Perryville Community Park before heading back across the bridge to finish at Tydings Park.

This year’s race was successful, Corson said, and 2019 will be even better.

“I think this has a chance to really grow and expend and become a showpiece for the upper bay,” he said.

The new date, later in September, will help draw more runners because it won’t conflict with the Philadelphia half-marathon and the Navy 10-miler in Washington, D.C., on the same weekend, Corson said. It’s also three weeks away from the Baltimore Running Festival.

“I know this year a number of runners who were already committed to Philly, some very elite runners,” he said.

He said the later date could bring cooler temperatures.

“The temperature and that much less competition from other major events the same weekend, that’s going to help us out a lot,” Corson said.

The festival benefits the Al Cesky Scholarship Foundation, which each year funds scholarships for a male and female student from each Harford high school. They broke even on this year’s event, which wasn’t unexpected.

With Hurricane Florence threatening to cancel the race, registrations in the week leading up to it deterred many runners, Corson said. Statistically, 25 percent of signups in a race like the Susquehanna River Running Festival come in the last week.

“We really feel like this year, we could easily double the number of runners, so it should be more successful that way,” he said. “But in every other way it was perfect.”

There were some behind-the-scenes issues, but to the public eye, and based on post-race surveys, it was a success, Corson said. Of the 343 people who responded, just three said they would not recommend the race.

A little less than half the runners were from outside of Harford County, and about 80 percent of them said they would come back to the Havre de Grace area as a tourist, he said.

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“It’s not just a one-day event. Now people discover Havre de Grace and they want to come back and visit,” Corson said. “It will definitely be a benefit to the city to do this. It’s putting them on the map for a lot of people who have never seen it other than a sign on [Interstate] 95.”

Greg Pizzuto, executive director of Visit Harford!, the tourism marketing organization for Harford County, said the running festival was a great event.

“I think this has a chance to really grow and expand and become a showpiece of the Upper Bay,” Pizzuto said. “It’s another great thing we’re doing here with tourism between the two counties.”

He said it’s “a feather in a cap for this area” that could gain national attention for runners who want to experience different areas to run.

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