Choo Choo 9 Miler and 5K

City Westerville
07.04.2024  !
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Choo Choo 9 Miler and 5K: race description

Whether you're getting ready for that spring half marathon or looking to test your winter training in your first 5k of the year, the Choo Choo is for you. We have race options of 9 miles or 5K, both runner and walker friendly. Join us on April 9th for something great, the Choo Choo 9 Miler and 5K.  

We're going to deliver great swag, new finisher medals for everyone, and a fun time. You're going to deliver the memories. Get on the believe train and come run with us! All aboard!

As you take part in the Choo Choo, you'll be paying homage to the legend of the central Ohio railways, the late Silas B. Rutherford and his beloved Bessie Express.  Just as the good citizens of Westerville have done for generations, kick off your spring by celebrating Silas' final journey aboard his ill-fated steam engine –, and then cover those final 9 miles in his memory.

If you're looking for a group to train with in preparation for the event, the Columbus Running Company hosts free group runs every Saturday morning at all locations. Runs start at 8am, all abilities and paces are welcome. 

Our benefitting charity

The Choo Choo 9 Miler and 5K is supporting OYO Camp, Ohio's Camp for Deaf/HH Kids through donations made through the race site. If you want to help out or learn more, simply click on the big “,”,'>,DONATE' button at the top of the page. You are not required to register for the race to donate.

Additional Race Information
Why 9 Miles?  And Why the Choo Choo?

The Choo Choo 9 Miler &, 5k pay tribute to one of the legends of central Ohio, the late Silas B. Rutherford.  For the full story of why we cover 9 miles, please be sure to read up on the legend of the great Silas here.  

Early Packet Pickup

Race packets may be picked up early at Columbus Running Company's Westerville location (50 N State St) on Friday, April 7 (10AM-8PM) and Saturday, April 8 (10AM-6PM). You may also pick up your packets at the race beginning at 7:30am on April 9.


Alum Creek Park North is where the race begins and ends, and due to being part of the course the park entrance will be closed to public traffic for the duration of the event. There is ample parking nearby in both Westerville City lots and Otterbein University lots. Good locations if you like being close by are Astronaut Grove (across the street from Alum Creek Park North), the Westerville Senior Center and First Responders Park, and Otterbein University lots on Campusview Rd (lots labeled “,X”, and “,Y”, –, DO NOT PARK IN THE AMERICHEER LOT!). If you're looking for a short warm-up jog to the race there are plenty of lots in Uptown Westerville, 1/2 mile from the start line.

Race Day Registration

As spots remain available at the Alum Creek Park North shelter building on race day beginning at 7:30am. We will accept cash, check (made payable to Columbus Running Company), or credit card on race day.


Both races will be chip timed, and all finishers will receive an awesome medal to honor their accomplishment while also honoring the spirit of the late Silas B. Rutherford. Top finishers and age group winners will receive special awards and recognition.

Create a Team

Have fun with a group and participate as a team. Each team member must individually pre-register under their team name. The first person signing up for a team will create the team during the registration process and all others signing up for that team will select their team name during their registration. For help with team registration and/or creation, please view the help topic by clicking here.

Participant Guidelines

Running with a stroller is absolutely fine. At the race start, please line up at the back of the pack for safety reasons. Running with dogs is prohibited: as is bicycling, inline skating, skooters, hoverboards, etc. Walking and running only in this event.

Instagram photos tagged with #choochoo9miler

Share your photos with us on Instagram, and use the hashtag #choochoo9miler

The Historical Roots of the Choo Choo

The roots of the Choo Choo 9 Miler &, 5k are intertwined with the roots of central Ohio itself.  You may remember the story of Silas B. Rutherford from your Ohio history classes.  The race is held in honor of Rutherford’s fateful final journey aboard his doomed steam train, the Bessie Express

To refresh your memory, area historian Logan Wells has eloquently put Rutherford’s story down in writing.

The Legend of Silas B. Rutherford &, the Bessie Express

In the year eighteen aught two, the relatively-famed Silas Bertrand Rutherford IV embarked on an unprecedented journey of immense danger, incalculable bravery, and unheard of speed.

Following a drunken exchange in the local tavern, Tarnation’s Gulch, the ever sanguine Silas boasted that he had engineered a vessel of such prowess that it could transport him the roughly 170 miles from the foothills deep in Southern Ohio to his beloved wife, Bertha “Bess” Rutherford, residing just north of the newly founded Columbus, OH—all within nine hours. The local skeptic and mathematician, Edmund Thaddeus Nevill, exclaimed “Preposterous, sir! Inconceivable, nay, impossible I say!”

Silas, not one to cower from a perceived challenge, engaged young Edmund in a gentleman’s wager that would forever shape the rest of his life and, indeed, history itself.

The Bessie Express, named for the woman towards whom it was bound, left town the next day precisely at noon, an undoubtedly arduous journey ahead. And arduous it was, Silas resigned to feed the raging furnace of the train and his dreams, alone, one scoop of coal at a time.

As the clocks neared the fateful hour, Silas labored away, sweat dripping from his brow, shoulders tearing with each heap tossed into the fire. News of his journey failed to travel at the same astronomical speeds of up to 19 miles per hour, and so onlookers were left to gaze in awe and confusion at the spectacle before them. Still, Silas carried on.

Then, just north of Columbus, Silas’s journey came to an end. Out of fuel, exhausted, and nearly dead from inhaling so many fumes, Silas and the Bessie Express rolled to a stop exactly nine miles from his wife’s doorstep. Too weary to continue, Silas dictated his final words to a local pageboy who happened across the halted locomotive. They read as follows:

Dearest Bessie,

It seems I have traveled a fortnight to be in your loving embrace, but alas, here my journey ends, weak, dejected. Pray, let not this shame mar my love for you. Were my body willing, I would crawl to your side and be with you forever more, but it seems my own pride has driven me to this point when a more cautious course might have been advised.

But that is my enduring legacy—a man unintimidated at the prospect of greatness. And it is my undoing. If I had but one final wish, save to be by your side, it would be this: that someday, somewhere, another like myself might complete this journey in my name. A brave soul it would be to take up the job, but a brave soul it must be to carry on the voyage of Silas B. Rutherford.

With all my love,


Your Challenge, in the Memory of Those Final, Fateful 9 Miles 

And so, in the spirit of the great Silas B. Rutherford, we invite YOU to help him complete his journey.  Honor the memory of this great titan of the steam engine, and set out to conquer the final 9 miles which laid him low.  Bring this choo choo into the station.  We’ll see you at the starting line.

For more information about Ohio's railroad history, we suggest you check out Rails and Trails, as well as Columbus Railroads.


Other races in the city

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