Belleville named one of top 5 runner-friendly cities in country

News-DemocratApril 23, 2014 

Belleville Running Club submission to RRCA

Belleville was named one of the Runner Friendly Communities by Road Runners Club of America.

The group named five cities nationwide, including Richmond, Virginia, Rockwall, Texas, Safety Harbor, Florida, and Spokane, Washington.

Belleville was selected because of its vast network of sidewalks and running and biking trails. In addition, the Belleville Running Club was named an important pillar of the community because it has weekly group runs.

Wendy Pfeil, a member of the BRC who also works at the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, submitted the application at the suggestion of Toby and Dan Trapp, brothers who founded the running club in 2005.

"They decided that we should be submitted for it," Pfeil said. "BRC is the total driving force behind it."

The application included a 60-second video that highlights the city's wide sidewalks, running trails, water fountains and number of runs.

"It was a very strong application," said Andy Smith, programs coordinator for RRCA.

He said there are no set number of cities named each year as Runner Friendly but simply those who show "a commitment from the government, the community, from runners... from businesses to make this a runner-friendly community."

Belleville will hold the title for five years.

The city will receive a plaque and Belleville businesses that support running will receive stickers to display, Smith said.

The goal of the Road Runners is to shine a national spotlight on communities that stand out as runner-friendly and provide incentives and ideas for communities to work toward becoming runner friendly.

One such idea in Belleville is the Triple Crown Medal, which is awarded to those who participate in three Belleville fitness events: Law Day 5K on May 3; Tour de Belleville 15 mile bike ride on July 11; and Gingerbread Run 5K on Dec. 6.

The most important criteria is that there are positive relationships between the running community and local government, according to the RRCA.

Jim Schneider, director of Community Development, said Belleville wants to do its part to create a healthier country.

"We're definitely trying to change the culture to attract people to the community and help people with their overall health," Schneider said.

In addition, Belleville's plethora of races contributed to its application, Smith said.

"Putting on races and being a place where people come to run," Smith said of Belleville. He called the city "a hub where races take place."

Upcoming races include the Bicentennial 5K on Friday and the Law Day 5K on May 3.

Mayor Mark Eckert said Wednesday that a few years ago there were four or five races in Belleville; last year there were 30.

He said the events attract people to the city of Belleville and help encourage people to live more active, healthier lives.

"It's nice recognition for the city," Eckert said. "Being recognized by a national group is something we're been striving to do for a number of years now."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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