Runners Compete With Luck of the Irish During Virginia Beach's 37th Yuengling Shamrock Sportsfest

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Sportsfest Celebrates 37 Years; Marathon, Half Marathon and 8K challenges sports enthusiasts of all ages to pursue the "pot of gold."

Strap on your running shoes, show some green, and get ready to race. This year, runners in Virginia Beach will need more than just the luck of the Irish to compete in the 37th Annual Yuengling Shamrock Sportsfest. Race enthusiasts at every level must endure a challenging test of physical strength and endurance during the Shamrock Marathon, Half Marathon, Towne Bank 8K, 8K Middle School Challenge, Children's Marathon, and Operation Smile Final Mile from March 21-22, 2009. Leprechauns and music will cheer runners on throughout the courses.

The 2009 Shamrock Marathon is a qualifier for the 2010 Boston Marathon. Approximately 3,500 runners and walkers will compete in the 26.2 mile Shamrock Marathon. The course is designed to parallel the Virginia Beach resort area and continue through Fort Story by the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse. All athletes will be lined up based on their estimated finish time. The Marathon course is open for 7 hours, which is a 16:02 per mile pace. For the first time, the Shamrock Marathon will be using the new state-of-the-art ChronoTrack timing system, which uses a disposable tag, called a D tag, which allows participants to walk away from the finish line without having to deal with the hassle of turning in a chip.

The Shamrock Half-Marathon limit has been increased to 7,500 competitors this year. Runners in the 13.1 mile half marathon will complete a fast flat loop course starting at the Cavalier Hotel on 42nd street and ending on the Virginia Beach boardwalk at 31st street.

The race limit for the Town Bank 8K also increased this year to 6,000 competitors. Runners will enjoy the cool ocean breezes as they finish on Virginia Beach's concrete boardwalk with thousands of screaming fans. The 8K Middle School Challenge is a new event for middle school students participating in the 8K. The racers will complete a nine-week training program to prepare for the race, with a training log, schedule, t-shirt and incentives to be provided. The school with the highest participation rate will be awarded prize money.

Children ages 6 months to 5 years old will dash madly across the official race finish line during the 26.2 yard Shamrock Children's Marathon. The children are separated into age group categories and they will receive a race goody bag and official Children's Marathon race T-shirt. The Children's Marathon is open to the first 300 who register.

Elementary students who participate in the Operation Smile Final Mile will run 25.2 miles at school or at home in the weeks prior to the marathon. They will run their final mile on the boardwalk to complete their very own marathon. Students will receive incentives every five miles completed, a T-shirt, goody bag, certificate, and a medal upon completion on race weekend. The school with the highest participation rate will be awarded prize money.

The Sports and Fitness Expo kicks off Shamrock Sportsfest and is held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. One of the largest on the East Coast, this two-day event will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with runners, walkers, and sports enthusiasts of all types. Vendors will offer a wide variety of equipment, apparel, footwear, and accessories for everyone in the family. Official Yuengling Shamrock Sportsfest gear also will be available. The Expo is free and open to the public.

The 2008 Shamrock Sportsfest races awarded over $25,000. The 2009 prize money will be announced at a later date. Those interested in participating in the races can register online or by completing a registration form downloaded from the Shamrock Sportsfest Web site at http://www.shamrockmarathon.com.

The Shamrock Sportsfest is a proud supporter of Preston's March for Energy and the Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, Operation Smile, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training, and The Virginian-Pilot Joy Fund. The organizers encourage race participants to collect donations in the form of pledges for research, education, treatment and cure for those in need. For more information regarding the charities, please visit http://www.shamrockmarathon.com.

Virginia Beach entices visitors to "Live the Life" every season of the year! Virginia Beach is four hours southeast of D.C. by car and within a day's drive or less from two-thirds of the U.S. population. For visitor information, call 1-800-VA-BEACH (800/822-3224) or visit the Web site http://www.vbfun.com for online trip planning. For media information and digital images, click on http://www.vbpressroom.com.

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Kari Journigan
BCF
757-497-4811
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Ron Kuhlman
Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau
757-385-4700
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