A proper path — Polen's race schedule ready to roll

A proper path — Polen's race schedule ready to roll

Longtime distance runner Brian Polen now holds races of his own, as his Mid Ohio Race Management will hold races throughout 2021, including the 2021 Super Bull Trail Championships (50k, 25k, 12.5k and 5k) on Saturday, March 6, at Wooster Memorial Park.


Vertical Runner on the surface and on Liberty Street in Wooster can appear to be just a runner’s store equipped with all the merchandise runners want or need.

However, runners, the Wooster Memorial Park Friends and others realize Vertical Runner is much more.

Waynedale folks claim Brian Polen, owner of Vertical Runner and Mid Ohio Race Management, as one of theirs, but runners throughout Ohio know him through his premier organization that stages and organizes races. Once the director of the Akron Marathon, Polen now holds races that are the consummate integration of electronic race timing, management, registration, apparel and awards.

The Mid Ohio Race Management website lists all of the upcoming races along with descriptions of the races themselves. The first 2021 race was held Feb. 13 at Camp Nuhop, near Pleasant Hill, titled the Vertical Mile. It was a 3.5-mile loop with over 1,000 feet of climbing on each loop, and running that loop five times ensured a total vertical gain over a mile for a race total of about 18-20 total miles.

Polen, who played almost every sport Waynedale High offered, said he first ran cross country on the weekends out of peer pressure from one of his best friends, who happened to be the top runner on the cross country team that only had three runners. “They needed me and a handful of soccer players to create a full team,” he said.

After high school he majored in mechanical engineering at the University of Akron and worked in the automotive field for 12 years before completely moving into the running community in 2012-13 as a running store owner and race director.

His “adult” running began in 2008 when he signed up on a whim for a marathon in an attempt to lose some weight. Since then he has run a few hundred races ranging in distance from 400 meters to over 100 miles, opened the store with his wife Tammy, and then started Mid Ohio Race Management, which began as Vertical Runner Race Management in 2015.

Staging a race takes just about as much effort as running a marathon.

“Mid Ohio Race Management prides itself on runner experience,” Polen said. “Pre- and post-race communication, excellent giveaways, unique experiences, fun themes, thoughtful post-race parties, and ultimately an incredibly organized race day experience are all items that are requirements we place on ourselves for any event we manage.

“To do so, all of our events get our attention all year long. Obviously, the closer an event gets to its event date, the more attention it gets, but we are working on all of our events in some capacity all year long to ensure a premier experience and unforgettable memory for the participant.”

One example is the upcoming Super Bull Trail Championships at Wooster Memorial Park, also known as Spangler Park, on the west edge of Wooster with a maximum of 300 racers.

“When we first hatched the idea of a fundraiser race at Wooster Memorial Park back in 2016, we thought that it would be awesome to have the event on the Saturday before the NFL Super Bowl. We planned to call it the Super Bowl Trail Championships. Luckily, one member of our race operations team reminded us just how cold it can be in Ohio the first weekend in February and how bitter hosting an event could be at that time of year,” Polen said of the race, sponsored by College Hills Honda.

“We decided to move it back one month to the first weekend in March, and as it was so far from the actual Super Bowl game that the name no longer made sense, we just changed two letters and landed on Super Bull Trail Championships, which led itself to a great logo. Bulls are cool.”

Polen estimates Mid Ohio Race Management events have raised and contributed over $100,000 to nonprofits. For the Super Bull run, the money raised will be donated to The Friends of Wooster Memorial Park organization to help build the park in whatever way the group sees fit. The normal donation is between $3,500-$5,000 depending on the participation in the event.

“We also use this as a friend-raising event, as our alternate goal is to expose as many runners/walkers as possible to this amazing resource that lies relatively unknown just outside the city of Wooster,” Polen said. “If you go to the park on any given weekend and see it zooming with runners and hikers alike, I believe our goal is being realized.”

On March 13 it’s on to the Leprechaun Chase 5k for the Wooster Running Club Scholarship Fundraiser, and about 150 runners are expected to run what is called a prediction run.

“You don't know the course — that way you cannot go out and practice and have an unfair advantage,” Polen said. “All we can tell you is that it is certified with (Brian Polen Satellites) and will not be closed.”

Later this summer the seventh annual Shawshank Hustle at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield will be Aug. 14, and then it’s the return of the Wooster Brick Run the last weekend of August. Polen said all precautions per COVID-19 are in place for these and future races.

Maybe the best aspect of running is nearly every person of every age can participate.

“Everyone is a runner. Some just need more practice or prodding than others to get their best out of themselves,” Polen said. “In today's world where everyone deals with the stresses of everyday life, mental illness is a real thing, and sitting is the No. 1 cause of death in the country.

“Running gives people of all ages, all shapes, all genders and all colors a safe place to exorcise their own demons and do amazing things every time they lace up their running shoes. It's hard to return from a run, even a tough or bad run, and not feel 100 times better than before you started.”

Jim Henery can be emailed at drjrh48@aol.com.

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