WILLIAMSON — Both Mingo and Pike Counties were packed with runners of all ages this past weekend as the Tug Valley Road Runners Club hosted the 22nd Annual Hatfield McCoy Marathon on Saturday.
A total of 853 runners from 40 different states registered for one of the five which included the full 26.2 mile marathon as well as the popular Blackberry Mountain Half Marathon, the River Road Half Marathon, and a 5K.
As with any marathon, there were several runners who had unique stories to tell, but none more than veteran and Purple Heart recipient Randy Woodward of Smyrna, Tennessee which is located just outside of Nashville.
Woodward, who was severely injured after he was hit by a roadside bomb while serving his second tour in Iraq in 2005, ran the entire 26.2 mile marathon carrying an 8 foot by 5 foot America Flag.
Before Woodward was injured, he had ran one marathon. After his injury he spent nine months recovering in hospitals and doctors told him he would never run again.
“It took me about five maybe six years and I finally got to where I could run another marathon,” Woodward said. “I would run one a year here and there and then in 2018 I was ready to not do it anymore, too much knee damage, back damage, shoulder damage...But I wanted to run two in one weekend while carrying the flag. And that turned into six consecutive weekends and 12 different races with the flag. That’s when I started to met a lot of these people that told me I should run all 50 states, so that’s where I’m at now. I’m chasing 50 states.”
Woodward said that since October of 2018 he has ran marathons in 37 of the 50 states in the United States. He said that even though the Hatfield McCoy Marathon is ran in two states, that it doesn’t count as a new state for his list because he has already ran a race in both West Virginia and Kentucky.
“This doesn’t count as a new state for me because I have already ran in both of these states, but this marathon has been on my radar,” Woodward said. “A lot of people that I have made friends with in the running community have talked about this marathon a lot. So I got up yesterday morning, ran a couple miles on the treadmill and was feeling pretty okay so I just registered yesterday.”
Woodword said that one of the reasons he runs with the flag is to spread patriotism and he hopes to inspire others to overcome any obstacle they may face. He said he will be picking up his 38th state this weekend when he runs in a marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.
While running the Hatfield McCoy Marathon on Saturday, Woodword met 63-year old Marie Bartoletti of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Marie has ran more than 500 marathons in her lifetime with the first coming in 2005.
In Nov. of 2015, she suffered a massive stroke which caused her a great deal of struggles. Bartoletti didn’t let the health scare stop her from running as she overcame the obstacles and has returned to running in marathons, finishing more than 180 since 2016.
Marie, who said this was her seventh time running the challenging Hatfield McCoy Marathon, also authored a book titled Perseverance: How a Determined Athlete Tenaciously Overcame a Stroke.
She said that Lord willing she will be making the return trip to run what is one of her favorite races for an eighth time.
TVRRC President Alexis Batausa said that he was thrilled with the turnout for the race after it was held virtually in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Batausa said that the race provides an economic impact not just for Williamson, but all of the surrounding communities.
Batausa wanted to be sure to thank all of the road runner club members and the 500 plus volunteers that assured everything went smoothly behind the scenes.
The 23rd running of the Hatfield McCoy Marathon is already set and will take place on June 11, 2022.