Running 13.1 miles up and down some of the steepest hills in Brown County State Park may sound more like work than fun.

But that added challenge — and the beauty of the park in fall — is precisely what will draw runners to the Brown County Hilly Half, Race Director Bill Bartley predicts.

Kim Robinson
Kim Robinson
Bill Bartley
Bill Bartley
Deanne Weaver
Deanne Weaver

The Saturday, Nov. 12 race will be the first half-marathon in Brown County, and organizers hope it will become an annual tradition.

The event is primarily a fundraiser for the YMCA, said Executive Director Kim Robinson. However, it also serves the YMCA’s mission of building healthy spirits, minds and bodies.

Half-marathons — or mini-marathons — are the fastest growing segment of the running market, Bartley said.

They offer a challenge that’s less intimidating or grueling than a full marathon, said Brown County YMCA personal trainer Deanne Weaver, who’s run the Boston Marathon.

The Hilly Half also will include a 5K walk and run and 10K run, Bartley said.

Organizers are budgeting for 500 participants.

The hope is to keep participants in the county the entire weekend, said YMCA board member Brian Fenneman.

“If they’ve never been to Brown County — never been to the park — once they come, once they’re introduced to the park, they’ll want to keep coming back,” Weaver said.

“Typically, an event is not someplace you would drag your family to,” Bartley said.

“But to go somewhere that’s a park, that has stuff that everybody can be doing, and it has the Nashville feel — there’s a big draw there, for the whole family.”

Shaping up

Events will kick off with a Brown County McDonald’s-sponsored children’s race on the Salt Creek Trail, Fenneman said. That will start late in the afternoon Friday, Nov. 11.

20160406bc marathon map
The 13.1 mile course runs east from the Lower Shelter and follows the park road south. The course will take a gravel crossover to pass west into the campgrounds and continue to the end of Taylor Ridge. The course then doubles back east and returns to the main park road, heading south to just short of Hohen point, before returning to the Lower Shelter finish line.

On Friday, Hilly Half runners also can complete late registration and enjoy a pasta dinner at the park, hosted by Big Woods, with all proceeds benefiting the YMCA, Fenneman said.The dinner, with entertain- ment, will be open to anyone, whether or not they plan to run.

Saturday morning, live bands will play during warm-ups at the starting line, near the park’s Lower Shelter inside the north gate.

Runners will start up the park road behind the Saddle Barn to the Nature Center. They’ll run to the end of the Taylor Ridge campground, then turn around and head back to the park road. The second fork veers onto another road on top of a ridge and turns around just short of Hohen Point before heading back to the Saddle Barn.

Bartley expects the final downhill stretch to yield many runners a record on their mile splits.

When the racers return, they will be greeted by a Big Woods pizza party, music and a chance to swap run stories, Fenneman said.

“That’s the best part of the race for everybody, at the end, sharing their stories,” Weaver said.

The medals handed out to winners will be uniquely Brown County, Robinson said. The YMCA is working with local artisans to design them, and they may change each year.

Money matters

The Brown County YMCA was built 15 years ago and maintenance costs continue to rise, Fenneman said. The air conditioning system in the pool area is on its way out and replacing it could cost around $150,000.When discussing the half-marathon concept, the board was looking to create an ongoing funding mechanism that can grow.They’re aiming to raise $15,000 to $20,000 from race sponsors this year, Robinson said.

Helping the YMCA is a mission Bartley can get behind. His company, Intimeco Productions, manages events such as Hoosiers Outrun Cancer, the Indiana University Mini Marathon and the Hoosier Half Marathon.

“I don’t want to get mushy, but I get a lot of phone calls from people that want to do events, and most of them, I just tell ’em, ‘I’m busy already,’” Bartley said.

“But, the cause behind this event — raising money for the Y — it’s a good cause. So, I’ll find time to figure out how to get that done.”

The race has several sponsors so far and organizers are recruiting more, Robinson said. They are still looking for a main sponsor at $10,000 or two at $5,000.

Sponsorship can come in the form of direct funding, or providing equipment or people, Bartley said. “Nobody interested in sponsorship will be turned away,” he said.

Fenneman also estimated a need for around 100 volunteers with jobs such as setting up water points and standing along the route to guide runners which way to go, he said.

“Everybody that I’ve mentioned it to is very excited about it,” Robinson said.

Hilly Half schedule

Friday, Nov. 11

Children’s race, pre-race pasta dinner and late registration, times to be determined

Saturday, Nov. 12

7 to 8 a.m. Packet pickup and late registration

8:15 a.m. Final instructions and national anthem

8:30 a.m. Start of all races

9:45 a.m. 5K awards

10:20 a.m. 10K awards

Noon Half-marathon timing ends

12:30 p.m. Half marathon awards

Time TBD Pizza party

Sign up

Register online at by Monday, Nov. 7.

The greatest discounts are given to participants who register before Oct. 1. Early registration fees range from $20 for a 5K walker to $50 for a half-marathon runner.

Be a partner

Interested in sponsoring the Brown County Hilly Half or volunteering at the race? Contact Brown County YMCA Executive Director Kim Robinson at or 812-988-9622.

Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.