By IAN HICKS
WHEELING - Earning a spot in the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Hall of Fame is not easily done, but four worthy inductees took their places Saturday alongside the event's most celebrated participants.
Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Race Director R. “Scat” Scatterday, left, congratulates two of the newest inductees to the event’s Hall of Fame, Jane Davis and Tim Birch. Not pictured are fellow inductees Judy Ward and her husband, the late Bob Ward.
Judy Ward and her late husband, Bob, along with Jane Davis and Co-Race Director Tim Birch were officially enshrined during the awards presentation at Heritage Port that followed Saturday's races.
Each has left their imprint on the race in their own way - and the race, in turn, on them.
Judy and Bob Ward
The Wards are going into the Hall of Fame much the same way they once ran the Ogden race year after year - together.
"I'm amazed and honored," Judy Ward said of their induction into the Hall of Fame. "He would have been very pleased."
The Wards first got into running after watching the elite runners conquer the streets of Wheeling in 1978. "It was inspiring to us," Judy Ward said. "We started jogging shortly after that, and (Bob) became interested in competition."
They ran the race for the first time in 1979, and had almost immediate success. Judy won her first trophy in 1980, followed by her husband in 1981. They ran the Boston Marathon together in 1982, and each year thereafter, they placed in their respective age groups in the Ogden race.
Bob died in 2001 after battling skin cancer and Parkinson's disease. Judy continued running the Ogden race until 2005, but realized it just wasn't the same.
Judy, who moved to Florida last year and couldn't be on hand for Saturday's ceremony, has put her competitive running days behind her. She's had three pacemakers put in, but she remains quite active, walking six miles each day and also biking and swimming regularly.
"I do think exercise is the fountain of youth. ... I think that running probably saved my life," she said.
She has two daughters, Crystal Young of Moundsville and Rhonda Fugate of Wheeling, and has three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Davis can't help but find it a little strange to be honored simply for doing something she loves.
And boy, does she love it.
"I probably run six days a week. ... It's my passion," she said.
Davis, who has worked as executive secretary to the superintendent for Ohio County Schools for 31 years, says running is a part of her daily routine - with little more thought than getting up and getting dressed. But it wasn't always that way for her, and she credits Ogden Ironman and former school Superintendent Lawrence Jones, who has run every year since the race's inception in 1977, including Saturday, with getting her involved in the sport around 1985.
Davis ran the Ogden race for the first time in 1988, missing only two races since then, during the years her two children were born. She's made great strides, steadily improving her performance - in 2011, she finished third in the Masters division, and in 2012 and 2013 placed second and first in her age group, respectively.
Davis said she appreciates the support from all the spectators who line the course each year.
Davis has been married since 1983 to her husband Bill, and has two children, Zachary and Carmen.
Birch's role with the Ogden races is largely behind the scenes, but it's hard to miss his trademark hat and take-charge attitude.
It's also hard to miss the impact he has on making sure things run smoothly every year and runners and spectators have a safe atmosphere in which to compete and enjoy themselves. But Birch isn't sure what all the fuss is about.
"I'm very honored by this, but I really feel it belongs to a runner," Birch said of his induction into the Hall of Fame. "Events are what I do."
Birch has been involved with the race for more than 20 years, but his connection to it grew deep under former Race Director Howard Corcoran, who passed away in October of 2010. The two came to be close friends through the race, he said.
A big part of Birch's job is making sure everyone has the resources they need to do their job during race weekend, including water and electricity. When things don't go as planned, he's usually the one tasked with coming up with Plan B as co-race director in charge of operations.