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Hometown grad brings first full 26.2 mile marathon to town

Runners, take your mark.  Rhinebeck will be home to its first full 26.2 mile marathon race this spring, thanks to hometown girl Kyle Elizabeth Irwin. Irwin, a 2000 graduate of Rhinebeck High School, is the daughter of retired Chancellor Livingston gym teacher and Rhinebeck Recreation Director Liz Irwin.  A self professed “jock,” Irwin played multiple team sports while attending schools and worked for her mother in the local recreation programs.  She shyly admits to winning the “most outstanding female athlete” award when she graduated Rhinebeck High School.  Now, Irwin will  bring a world-class full marathon event to the town she loves.

In case you think Irwin, 32, is just an elite athlete, you’d be mistaken.  The accomplished young woman holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from the University of California at San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.  She spent several years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, where she intimately experienced the local cultural and outdoor adventure of living in a remote part of a jungle community. While there she formed and worked with an indigenous women’s artisan cooperative.  Fluent in Spanish, Irwin has also led educational trips for U.S. teens to the Dominican Republic. Her work resume also includes acting as an agent for a non-profit that provided business education to low-income entrepreneurs in under-resourced communities.

Just one and a half years ago, Irwin and her cousin, Chris Mead, founded their own company, F.E.A.T. (For Exploration Adventure and Travel). According to Irwin, the business model is built on bringing active travelers to beautiful locations.  Hikers and runners are given the opportunity to experience the magnificence of the natural and cultural environment in South America on a trip that is geared toward their lifestyle.  It is under the F.E.A.T. brand that Irwin is organizing what she hopes will be an annual event for Rhinebeck.

The course for the May 16 Rhinebeck Hudson Valley Full and Half Marathon was carefully considered by Irwin and includes the beautiful vistas of River Road, rolling country roads, and glimpses of the Hudson River in Rhinecliff. Half marathoners will complete one loop of the course while full marathoners will run two loops. Irwin has chosen local athlete Erica Ruge as the race ambassador.

Irwin is not looking to make a profit from the marathon due to the large expenses involved.  She is hoping to at least cover the cost of operations and is actively looking for local sponsors. If she does turn a profit, she plans on making a donation to the Rhinebeck Recreation Department. Irwin already has the approval of both the Town and Village of Rhinebeck, local police and sheriff offices, the highway department and others.  Her next step is to reach out to local businesses to see how they can play an important role in the event.

As part of her community advocacy, Irwin is helping teams of runners raise funding for their favorite charities.  Those interested can register their cause on the marathon website and ask for donations there.  Irwin will present the teams with a check on race day.

Even more of an enticement to join the run is a collaboration with HITS (Horse Shows in the Sun) who have made the Rhinebeck marathon an official qualifying event for their own half marathon championship which will take place in the Bahamas later this year. There will be swag bags for runners that include a high quality running shirt with the marathon and sponsor logos, as well as other goodies.  Prizes will be awarded.

The cost to join in on the fun is $65 for a half and $85 for a full race.

Runners from Massachusetts and New Jersey have already sent in their entrance fees and Irwin is hopeful to attract many new people to the town where her parents have lived for 38 years.

If you would like to register or want more information on the Rhinebeck Marathon, you can go to travelbyfeat.com. Contact Irwin by email at kirwin@travelbyfeat.com.

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