The spirit of the Irish ran through Harmony and Zelienople boroughs March 27 with 300 runners participating in the Shamrock Shuffle.
The St. Patrick's Day tradition of the Zelienople Rotary Club returned for the 12th year as people from around the region participated in a half-marathon, a 5K run and other events. The event was canceled last year over coronavirus concerns. This year, as a precaution, the event was held mainly outdoors. The course took runners and athletic dogs through the residential streets of Harmony and Zelienople.
As the runners made their way through the course, spectators lined the streets to cheer them on.
Co-title sponsors were Armstrong and Baierl Ford in Zelienople.
For Maegan Johnson, of Evans City, the victory was in overcoming her Crohn's disease this year and being able to run. The inflammatory bowel disease left Johnson unable to participate in marathons for the last two years, but this year she said she is building her ability back up to participate in the annual Pittsburgh marathon.
The marathon is being held “virtually” this year, and Johnson said many people including herself will independently run the in the city on the usual day of the marathon.
“I was sick for so long, and it feels great to take my power back,” Johnson said. “The disease doesn't own me.”
She said she started training in January and events such as the Shamrock Shuffle help keep her on pace for her goal of running this summer in Pittsburgh. She ran in the 5K event with her husband, Mark.
“She's pretty fast,” Mark said.
As part of her effort to cope with her Crohn's disease, she has raised $3,000 so far this year for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation
As the Johnsons cooled down, Kathy Corcoran, the president of the Zelienople Rotary Club, walked around the Wood Street Park helping to hand out awards and telling people their finish times.
She said there were several alterations made compared with previous years because of coronavirus concerns.
“There's not as much pomp and circumstance this year,” Corcoran said. “It's different this year, but we're just so happy to be here.”
Complimentary soup was being offered at the nearby Harmony Inn, and beer from the also nearby ShuBrew and an assortment of other goods were offered to participants.
Corcoran said they tried to encourage grab-and-go behavior.
And the runners were also happy to be there, with the event drawing in people from around the region.
Casey Benson, of Pittsburgh, did the half-marathon with her dog, Harper.
She said they plan on doing a half-marathon once a month this year.
“This is so wonderful,” Benson said.
A group from McMurray, an area in Washington County, drank ShuBrew beers in the park.
“We ran this two years ago, and we knew we had to come back when we heard it was back on,” Molly Quinn said. “We were hoping for the keg stand again but I guess that wasn't COVID friendly.”
Her friends, Shannon Riskey and Laura Hutchinson, booed in lamentation of the keg loss.
“It's a very charming town, and the ShuBrew at the end was a nice surprise,” Quinn said, adding they planned on walking to Harmony Inn for soup but, more importantly, they planned on “hitting up some local breweries.”
Riskey and Hutchinson cheered their approval of the plan.
The event was also enjoyed by local residents.
Ronald Elliott, an attorney and Rotary member, huffed and peered through sweat-soaked eyes as he neared the end of his 5K run.
He noted the club was concerned about the virus and pushed the event back by two weeks to see if infection rates would increase.
“I'm feeling excellent, and what a beautiful day,” Elliott said between sucking mouthfuls of air to catch his breath.
The Shamrock Shuffle also helps the local Rotary raise money. The net proceeds for the race will go to support community service projects within Zelienople and Harmony.
Corcoran said the group is also supporting initiatives that tackle food insecurity. The club also has six scholarships that go to graduating seniors at Seneca Valley High School.
Corcoran hopes to raise more than $13,00 from this year's Shamrock Shuffle.