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Oaklawn announces “What the Sam Hill!? 2020 Virtual Run” Oct. 17-31

Oaklawn has reinvented its annual race to provide runners and walkers with an opportunity to safely exercise and challenge themselves by participating in a virtual event. Participants can complete the “What the Sam Hill!? 2020 Virtual Run” anytime, anywhere from Oct. 17 to 31.

“Oaklawn has hosted the annual Hospitality Classic for many years, but the challenges of COVID-19 forced us to re-evaluate this year’s event,” said Ryan Traver, director of marketing at Oaklawn. 

“We decided to look at this as an opportunity to try something new, do something fun, and give people a reason to participate regardless of where they’re located or what their fitness level might be,” Traver said. “We’re really excited about this approach, and we can’t wait to see people get outside and do something good for themselves.”

Oaklawn’s Hospitality Classic typically attracts participants from all over the state, which isn’t possible to do safely while maintaining social distancing, Traver said. Organizers still wanted to hold an event, but it needed to look different this year. 

Instead of gathering to run in large groups, participants in the virtual event are being asked to sign up online and participate when and where it’s convenient for them. 

“Better yet, you don’t have to be a runner,” Traver said. Participants can run, walk, skate, bike or exercise in any form with which they’re comfortable.

“There won’t be a start time or a starting line,” he said. “There will be no chips, no bibs, no set distances, and no one recording their pace. This isn’t about who you’re running against or what place you finish. This is strictly about having a fun reason to live an active lifestyle, no matter what that looks like to you.” 

How exactly was this year’s theme of  “What the Sam Hill!?” born? It all starts with a little bit of unique Marshall history. Sam Hill was a surveyor and mining expert in the 1800’s who maintained a winter home in Marshall at the intersection of Mansion and Eagle streets. He gained quite a reputation for his foul language, so much so that people started using the expression “What the Sam Hill!?” as a substitute for curse words. Pair this historical gem with the COVID-19 circumstances of today and you have the perfect theme for a virtual run. 

“We’ve got some really fun swag for participants that not only commemorates this year’s event, but what a year it’s been,” Traver added. “We hope people will get a kick out of what we’re doing and that this will put smiles on faces as they break a little bit of a sweat. Most likely, when this is all a thing of the past, we’ll look back on 2020 and say, ‘What the Sam Hill!?’”


Participants can register online at until Sept. 30. The cost is $30 per person, with a special $5 reduction per person when more than one person registers together. Those who register by Sept. 30 will receive a “What the Sam Hill!?” T-shirt and a 3-inch PVC keychain.

Participants are being asked to complete their “run” between Oct. 17 and 31, then post a “sweaty selfie” to their social media, using the tags @oaklawn_cares on Instagram and @OaklawnHospital on Facebook, with the hashtag #whatthesamhillrun.

Local participants can pick up their items at the Oaklawn marketing office at 116 E. Prospect Street in Marshall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15 and 16. Individuals who don’t live locally but still reside within the continental United States may choose to have their items shipped at no extra charge by selecting “free shipping” during checkout.

“Oaklawn’s Hospitality Classic and this year’s ‘What the Sam Hill!?’ virtual run are examples of Oaklawn’s dedication to keeping the community healthy by encouraging individuals and families to foster healthy lifestyles,” Traver said.

“By promoting this event, Oaklawn hopes to encourage fitness and enjoyment of running/walking for participants of all ages,” he added. “A special ‘thank you’ goes to the Eaton Corp. for its continued support and sponsorship of these events.”