Brown County YMCA Hilly Half: Race spots still open for kids, adults

Slots filling up for inaugural Hilly Half event

Participants in the first Hilly Half Marathon, 10K and 5K in Brown County State Park are coming from nine states, as far away as California, Minnesota, Florida and Utah.

Nearly 300 runners are already committed. New registrations have been arriving by about 10 a day for the past few weeks, said Brown County YMCA Executive Director Kim Robinson.

The price to register will increase at the end of the month and another rush is expected before race day Saturday, Nov. 12.

But participation is still welcome in all three Hilly Half races and in the Fun Kids Run the night before, especially from locals.

“This is Brown County’s opportunity to put themselves on the map in terms of this type of event,” said Mike Stieglitz, general manager and owner of the Nashville McDonald’s, an event sponsor.

“You look at Bartholomew County and Columbus, you look at Bloomington and IU, they have all of these 5Ks, they do mini marathons and all of this stuff. But what those two communities don’t have, and we’re sandwiched in between, is the backdrop,” he said.

The signature Hilly Half half-marathon will start and end at the Lower Shelter in Brown County State Park. Shorter races will follow the same route, starting up the large hill behind the Saddle Barn.

On Friday night before the park races, a Fun Kids Run will take place on the Salt Creek Trail behind the Y.

The Hilly Half is not the first race the YMCA has been involved in, but it’s the biggest one, Robinson said.

“We’ve done the Reindeer Romp for 16 years and this is a different ballgame, a bigger level and a lot more moving parts,” she said.

And it’s for a big cause: maintaining the YMCA, which is needing at least $250,000 worth of work just to its pool ventilation system.

This is the first capital campaign Y supporters have undertaken since the initial fundraising call to construct the building, said board member Brian Fenneman.

Anything raised over $250,000 will go into the YMCA’s endowment at the Brown County Community Foundation, Robinson said.

Kids run

The Fun Kids Run is a fundraiser for the YMCA, but it’s also a way to promote the Y’s mission: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.The Fun Kids Run, presented by Nashville McDonald’s, will take off in four groups Friday, Nov. 11 on the Salt Creek Trail at the YMCA.

Preschoolers to sixth-graders can participate.

“They really aren’t races. They aren’t timed. We just want people to be active and participate,” Fenneman said.

The course for preschoolers and kindergartners is a half-kilometer. For first- and second-graders, it’s a 1K; for third- and fourth-graders, it’s a 1.5K; and for fifth- and sixth-graders, a 2K.

High school cross-country team members will help get kids to their spot, said Fun Kids Run Chairwoman Betsy Parman.

Ronald McDonald will lead warmup exercises starting at 4 p.m. A bouncy house, courtesy of Seward Party Rentals, and music will entertain kids as they wait to turn to run.

Afterward, runners will receive apple slices from McDonald’s and a “special goodie” from Ronald, Stieglitz said.

All three Brown County elementary schools and the intermediate school will also be able to raise money for their schools ahead of the run.

Beginning Nov. 2, each school will have a Fun Kids Run registration night at McDonald’s featuring an all-you-can-eat pancake dinner. Students and their parents can sell vouchers for the dinner, and all proceeds, except $1 per ticket to cover costs, will go to each school.

Pancake vouchers will only be good for the night listed for that specific school.

The school with highest percentage of students at the race will receive a traveling trophy.

“Hopefully, it will get the kids excited about their school spirit,” Fenneman said.

The hope is to grow the Hilly Half Marathon over the next few years, and having something for the whole family to enjoy while runners are here is an important part of that, he said.


Nov. 11, the night of the kids run, is also early packet pickup night for runners in Saturday’s races.Between 6 and 8 p.m. at the Brown County YMCA, Big Woods Brewing Company will serve a pasta dinner for a suggested $10 donation. All proceeds will go to the YMCA.

Local musician Braeden Brown will play music.

It’s not just for runners; anyone can buy a ticket to eat, Fenneman said. They will be sold at the YMCA and by Y members in advance, he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to raise money and have a nice dinner on a Friday night,” Fenneman said.

In talking with potential donors about supporting the Y, Fenneman said one of the biggest misconceptions he’s encountered is that the local Y receives funding from a large YMCA umbrella organization.

That’s not true; the local Y actually pays a fee to the national organization, he said. Daily bills are paid from Y memberships and any other needs have to be covered through fundraising or gifts, he said.

The other misconception is that the Y is “just a swim and gym,” he said. Fenneman, who moved to Brown County eight years ago, said the Y is a huge community asset, a place for new residents to meet their neighbors and connect over common interests.

And the pool — the main thrust of current fundraising — is where lifeguards are trained, children learn water safety, people with special needs and disabilities receive therapy, and all ages come to swim.

“Yeah, it’s for the members, but it’s so much more than that for the community. People 15 years ago saw that, and it’s our role to keep it pristine,” Fenneman said.

“We really want the whole community to help us achieve this.”

Get involved


Students are encouraged to sign up for the Fun Kids Run during registration nights at McDonald’s.

Van Buren Elementary: Nov. 1.

Helmsburg Elementary: Nov. 3.

Sprunica Elementary School: Nov. 9.

Brown County Intermediate School: Nov. 2.

Vouchers for an all-you-can-eat McDonald’s pancake dinner will be sold by students and their parents to benefit each school. Vouchers will only be able to be used on the specific night listed.

The school that registers the highest percentage of their student population for the Fun Kids Run will win a trophy.

Race registration is $5; T-shirts are an additional $5.

Students also can also sign up the day of the Fun Kids Run, which begins at 4 p.m. Friday Nov. 11 at the Brown County YMCA.

Preschool and kindergarten students will run a half-kilometer course beginning at 4:30 p.m.

First- and second-graders will take off on a 1K course at 4:45 p.m.

Third- and fourth-graders will run a 1.5K beginning at 5 p.m.

Fifth- and sixth-graders will run a 2K beginning at 5:15 p.m.


After the kids run Friday, a pasta dinner by Big Woods Brewing Company will be served from 6 to 8 p.m. at the YMCA. Tickets are $10.


Three races will take place in Brown County State Park Saturday, Nov. 12: A 5K, 10K and half-marathon.

To register, visit

Runners most register by the end of October to be entered into a drawing for a Brown County Giveaway package from the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau. It includes a YMCA membership and other goodies.

Help wanted

Hilly Half organizers are still looking for about 20 more volunteers to help at the races Nov. 11 and/or 12.

Volunteers can fill up and hand out water at the water stops and direct traffic Saturday, and help with the kids run, early packet pickup and at the pasta dinner Friday.

To help, call the YMCA at 812-988-9622.

Reporter Suzannah Couch contributed to this story.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.