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The 44th running of the Bill Penney Toyota Cotton Row Run is set for early Memorial Day morning in downtown Huntsville. More than 3,000 runners are expected to join the annual festivities. Photo Contributed

Cotton Row Run 2024 Set For Memorial Day Morning

HUNTSVILLE- The Cotton Row Run, a Memorial Day tradition in Huntsville, will host its 44th renewal next week as more than 3,300 runners will take to the streets of downtown Huntsville for the 10K, 5K and 1-mile fun run.

The 10K course, with its start on Church Street, runs through the beautiful neighborhoods of downtown Huntsville including Blossomwood and 5 Points, and provides a nice challenge as runners enjoy the infamous climb up Mountainwood Hill between miles two and three. After the climb, participants make their way back to downtown with a finish on Church Street near where the race began. The 10K course also showcases Huntsville’s beautiful, historic Twickenham and Old Town Districts. The 5K course stays closer to downtown and is flat and fast. All courses are certified by the USATF and are record eligible.

The Bill Penney Toyota sponsored race has a usual focus on Memorial Day and honoring those who died serving the U.S. TOC/TOC Sports and Fleet Feet are also huge business supporters of the events which begin at 7:00 a.m. Madison Hospital Vein Clinic, Avadian Credit Union and Focu-s Physiotherapy are also sponsors of the races.

This year, 3,000 runners have pre-registered for the race with another 400 expected to join in by the time the start gun is fired. The total number of runners registered is at least 200 more than a year ago.

Top seeded runners are no strangers to the Cotton Row Run. Both David Bett (28:37) of Kenya and Dominic Korir (29:20) of Los Angeles participated last year with Bett finishing second (29:05) and Korir third (29:59) behind winner Shadrack Keter, 22, with his winning time of 29:01. The No. 1 seeded local runner is Hunter Nails, 25, of Madison who finished seventh overall a year ago with a time of 32:44. His seed time is 31:30. On the women’s side, defending champion Lydiah Mathathi, 37, (33:55) has not entered in 2024, thus allowing 25-year old Betty Sigei to be the top seed with a time of 32:06. Among local females, Emma Hardman will lead that group with a seed time of 36:30.

Bett is coming off a wonderous spring season of running as he won the 150th Derby Mini-Marathon in Louisville, Ky. His reputation as a strong runner is evident with his tremendous experience. Bett won a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships held in Moneton, Canada while taking home a silver medal at the 2009 World Youth Championships in Brixen, Italy.

With one race year skipped due to Covid-19 issues, this is the 45th year of the Cotton Row Run which began in 1980. Since that opening race only six runners have participated in all the races. They again will be back for another shot at the special event next week. Those six are Bill Albritton, 69, Don Hillis, 67, Charles Van Vaulkenburgh, 67, Bill McDowell, 70, Jon Turner, 76, and Kevin Jose, 63.

Spectators are encouraged to line the race route to encourage each of the more than 3,000 participants to give their best and be a part of what is known as one of the top road races in the South.

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