POTTER COUNTY — After last year’s cancellation and a couple of years of uncertainty surrounding the event, the God’s Country Marathon is planned to return to Galeton and Coudersport this summer, Saturday, June 5.

For more than 45 years, the marathon has been a Potter County staple. It was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a few dedicated runners still ran the course, which starts at the Galeton Area School District and ends at the Potter County Courthouse in Coudersport. The marathon is one of the few local events that has publicly confirmed plans to move forward as the pandemic continues. Other annual events, such as the Eliot Ness Fest and Potter/Tioga Maple Fest have already been canceled.

“For runners and community members alike, moving forward with the event is a positive sign that will offer people an opportunity to be together outdoors after the disappointment of canceling the event last year,” Britta Petrich, member of the God’s Country Marathon committee, said.

The marathon is under new leadership and this year will be the first year with a marathon under the new committee, composed of running enthusiasts Karen Larsen, Amy Long, Rich Neefe, Tom Gooch, Jessica Songster and Britta Petrich.

After they consulted with the state Department of Health, and got the “green light” from UPMC Cole and the Potter County Education Council, the committee moved forward with marathon plans and opened registration for the event last week.

To ensure safety this year, protocols will be put in place to keep the runners and volunteers safe. Masks and social distancing will be required, along with health and safety guidelines recommended by the hospital, the committee said.

“I am so excited about the improvements being made to keep this race one of the longest running marathons in Pennsylvania. Our supporting partners, The Westgate Inn and UPMC Cole, help make that possible. Our first priority is the safety and experience of our runners and that is at the essence of every decision made by our committee,” Larsen said.

Participants in the 46th God’s Country Marathon will have a scenic run along Route 6. The “famed challenge” of the course is the three-mile trek over Denton Hill, which has an elevation of 2,424 feet, and the two miles back down.

In addition to the full marathon, a half-marathon and a relay are also options. The half-marathon begins at the base of Denton Hill; the relay is broken into five legs that span across the marathon course.

The committee said the marathon has received tremendous support from local businesses and organizations.

“Holding the marathon this year offers opportunities for runners and a chance to give back to the community through connection and local tourism by bringing patrons into local establishments,” Petrich said.

God’s Country Marathon is among the county’s top five events in terms of tourism, Colleen Hanson, executive director of Visit Potter-Tioga, said.

“God’s Country Marathon, for many, many years, has been very significant to commerce in Potter County. It’s brought thousands of people …. those people all need a place to stay, they need meals,” Hanson said.

The marathon has averaged just under 200 runners a year since 2010. But it doesn’t bring just runners to town. A lot of the marathon participants have an entourage of supporters with them to cheer them on along the course.

“Typically during God’s Country Marathon weekend, you can’t get a room in Potter County,” Hanson said. “I’m thrilled the new committee has breathed new life to the marathon and they’re doing a great job. It’s going to be well organized, and, from the sounds of it, well attended.”

Runners can register for the marathon at www.active.com (search “God’s Country Marathon”). Those interested in volunteering or supporting the marathon, email the committee at runpawilds@gmail.com. For more information on Visit Potter-Tioga, or to find other things to do in the area, visit www.visitpottertioga.com.

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