One of the coalfields’ favorite fun run returns to downtown Williamson on Saturday, Sept. 11. The ninth annual Coal Dust Run 5K fun run is set for 5 p.m. After a COVID-19-forced pandemic in 2020, the homage to coal mining is set to make its return.

Presented by the Tug Valley Road Runners Club (TVRRC) and the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce (TVCC), the popular race brings out people of all ages and abilities to hit the streets of Williamson in celebration of coal mining and the men and women who have labored both underground and on surface operations. Founded in 2012 in the spirit of the popular “Color Run” race series, participants get “dusted” along the race route and appear to have worked a shift underground when they cross the finish line.

“It’s a great way to kick off the King Coal Festival week,” said Leigh Ann Ray, race director and co-founder. “The coal industry is near and dear to all our hearts here in the Tug Valley and the Coal Dust Run is a great way to pay tribute and say, ‘Thank you’ to those who have risked their lives so provide the world with energy.”

The event will begin and end at the historic Coal House on Second Avenue, but a new route will take participants through different areas of Williamson and through two dust zones before receiving a commemorative finisher metal.

Ray explained that this year’s race logo is inspired by mining companies that once existed in the Tug Valley.

“Our 2018 race shirt and medal were loosely inspired by Massey Energy’s ‘Flaming M’ logo,” Ray explained. “It went over so well that this year, we used an Island Creek Coal logo for our inspiration.”

This year’s finisher medal features Island Creek’s miner holding a lantern and incorporates both of the industry’s signature safety colors — orange and green.

“We’ve alternated using safety orange and green in the past, this year we are using both,” Ray said.

Event organizers also recognize the fact that this year’s event falls on the 20th anniversary of the 9-1-1 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Commemoration of the event is on the finisher medal ribbon.

“We vowed never to forget the events of that day and the people we lost,” Ray said, “And here, in the Tug Valley, we haven’t.”

This year’s race is the first for TVCC Executive Director Randall Sanger, who took over duties at the Coal House after the 2019 Coal Dust Run.

“I’m excited. I’ve never done one and I am looking forward to all the activity and excitement at the Coal House and in town,” Sanger said.

Registration for the race is ongoing at or in person at the Coal House. Race fees are $20 until Friday, Sept. 10 and increase to $25 on race day. Packet pickup for pre-registered runners will be from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the Coal House.

Sponsors for this year’s event are: Williamson Health & Wellness Center, the Mingo Messenger, South Side Mall, Tug Valley Appalachian Regional Medical Center and George Swain State Farm.

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