With the sun rising high above Kansas Highway 177, on a strip otherwise known as Coach Bill Snyder Highway, hundreds of runners lined up along the road and its shoulder facing Manhattan before 7 a.m.
With the blare of an air horn, they were off, running 8 miles down the highway before winding through downtown, K-State’s campus and ending up at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Saturday marked the fifth-annual Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon and 5K. For the first time, nearly 1,900 participants finished the race on the football field, rather than in the parking lot. Race coordinator Ben Sigle said the novelty of being able to end on the field likely helped attract more people this year.
“The last four years K-State’s always had projects they were working on at the stadium,” Sigle said. “There’s just always been a reason why we couldn’t finish on the field so we’re finally able to this year.”
Sigle, co-owner of Manhattan Running Company, said he appreciated the fact they could name the race after Snyder, who retired as head coach of K-State’s football program in December, in the first place.
“He’s done so much for the city of Manhattan,” he said. “I grew up in the area and when you look around, things are completely different than they used to be. A big part of it is what he’s done for the (football) program and what he’s brought to the area.”
Each year race proceeds are donated to charities. This year, Snyder chose four organizations as recipients: K-State’s Johnson Cancer Research Center, Shepherd’s Crossing, Snyder Leadership Fellows and the Matt Snyder Foundation for Troubled Youth. Sigle said over the past four years, Manhattan Running Company has been able to donate about $100,000 to local charities from the Bill Snyder Highway Half and 5K alone.
“I think that’s why so many people get excited about (the event) is because it’s Bill Snyder and because philanthropy is something that’s so important to him,” 5K participant Lexie Hayes, 34, Manhattan, said.
“A lot of the proceeds are going to kind of honor him and what he’s done here in the Manhattan community. They’re going to a good cause.”
Sarah Ibbetson, 38, Ozark, Missouri, was the first woman and eighth overall runner to cross the finish line for the half marathon with a time of 1:23:32.
Ibbetson, who has been running since she was 11 years old, said the time was longer than her personal goal, but she still finished strong despite recovering from bronchitis.
“I’m certainly happy to get the win and always thankful to be out there,” she said.
“My time wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I’m actually on antibiotics because I’ve had bronchitis this past week. I’m not wonderful, but I’m feeling better than I was. I’m just happy to be able to run today.”
Ibbetson said she suffered an injury in the fall but has been building up her training regime for the race since January, running about 70 to 90 miles per week.
“I loved being able to finish in the stadium, it was great (organizers) were able to do that,” Ibbetson said. “The race organizers do a fantastic job. It’s a very well put-on event.”