|In Praise of the Underdog Marathon.
Some of the quiet heroes among marathons.
Running a marathon is impressive (some would say: crazy), but organizing and staging a marathon is even more impressive (and we would say: really crazy)! The race presents a logistical and organizational nightmare: designing a course, procuring permits, equipment, sponsors & money, community support, volunteers - not to mention finding runners.
A few marathons seem to get all of the press, but we'd like to change that a little. In this article, we single out a few races and a few individuals that deserve special mention. These are races that are making a special effort to attempt something special - most times against the odds - and are succeeding. Some will become the next big marathon, while others will continue to do things on a smaller scale. These races are all runner-centric races - created and continued with the runner in mind - and they are all special.
There are other marathons that could be listed here - but space allowed us to choose just a few. If there's a special story or situation that we should know about - let us know!
The Inaugural Marathon
Launching a new marathon takes special energy and commitment. Beyond the difficulties of putting on the race itself, organizers have the extra challenges of budgeting and planning for an unknown number of runners, attracting sponsors to a previously unknown event. We encourage runners to support any inaugural marathon in their area - and we encourage runners to sign up early to help organizers in their planning!
Toyota Prius Miami Tropical Marathon & Half-Marathon (2/2/03)
All of the ingredients are in place for this to be the major debut marathon of 2003: A major metropolitan area and tourist destination, a strong running community, experienced organizers who are runners and committed to building a major event...
Groups have promised to bring a marathon to Miami for a number of years, but until this year, nothing has gone beyond the planning phase. For 2003, Robert & Gaby Pozo have stepped forward to build a new marathon from the ground up - offering runners a course that showcases the city and its beaches. With experience putting on triathlons in Miami, this local group knows the city, knows athletes, and knows runners. This will be the largest inaugural marathon of the year, and should be an exciting event. With $50,000 in prize money, the organizers are working to bring both elite runners and ordinary runners to Miami.
Website for: The Miami Tropical Marathon
Upstart Marathons - Creating an Alternative
2002 saw the launch of a number of new marathons, but two stand out as special successes, destined to continue to grow and succeed in the coming years. Each gathered more than 1,000 finishers in their first year - an important milestone - but just as importantly: each is put on by individuals with a desire to give back to the running community, which is clear by their attitude and their races.
Des Moines Marathon & Half-Marathon (10/5/03)
In 2002, Helene Neville proved to the world that Des Moines could provide an attractive venue for a very successful marathon - and an attractive alternative to certain overcrowded fall marathons. The race enticed runners to the city by choosing to be exceptionally runner-friendly (the importance of which some other races seem to have forgotten) and by providing a scenic, park-like, urban course. Neville's mantra was that that the Des Moines Marathon would put her city on the map, just as Grandma's had put Duluth on the running map. And with people complaining of the crowds at Chicago and other races, it was time to bring a race back to the runners. This race is a great example of what can be created through hard work and a commitment to the running community. Congratulations.
Website for: The Des Moines Marathon
Lakeshore Marathon (5/4/03)
Mark Cihlar decided that Chicago needed a spring marathon to coincide with Earth Day and to showcase the city's beautiful lakefront (the course is run exclusively along the lake!). As a marathon runner, Cihlar knew what he wanted to provide for other runners, and developed this race to give back to the Chicago running community. With little support from the other marathon in town (that can't possibly see this race as competition), extraordinary effort was required to bring this race together as another opportunity to run a marathon in Chicago. With one year under its belt, the race is poised to become a fixture on the spring marathon calendar.
Website for: The Lakeshore Marathon
Carrying the Torch
A few marathons face an extra foe as they move towards greatness - overcoming the stigma created by a predeccesor marathon. Below are some marathons and individuals who have succeeded in turning their events around and are committed to building world-class events.
St. Jude Memphis Marathon & Half-Marathon (12/7/02)
After a troubled 2000 running, the Memphis Marathon took a hiatus in 2001. But for 2002, organizers decided to reinvent and relaunch the marathon with a vengeance. With $50,000 in prize money, including cash awards for age-group winners, a team of workers from St. Jude Children's Hospital and the Memphis Runners Track Club has worked tirelessly to promote the event and reinvigorate this race. It seems to be working...
Website for: The St. Jude Memphis Marathon
Buffalo Marathon, Half-Marathon and Relay (5/25/03)
After the Buffalo Marathon failed in 2000, John Beishline took it upon himself to prove that Buffalo is a running town. Through tireless work, Beishline was successful in gaining Nissan as the race's title sponsor and giving runners one of the greatest deals in marathoning: a scenic/urban course, free/included pasta dinner, an "I'm Training for the Nissan Buffalo Marathon" t-shirt, and all the usual runner amenities for only $25 (it will be $30 for 2003). Truly a labor of love - and we're still not sure how this race even breaks even...
Website for: The Buffalo Marathon
Long Beach International City Marathon, Half-Marathon, Inline Marathon & 5K (October 2003)
The current organizers came to the support of runners in 2001 and battled sabotage as they rebuilt this great event... After runners were fed up with existing organizers, Bob Seagren and John Goldman stepped in to keep the tradition of marathoning alive in Long Beach - both in 2001, and into the future. The success of the new organizers and race was in jeopardy the first year, as the previous organizers did all that they could to tell runners that the Long Beach Marathon was cancelled and to not show up! That, and a date one month after 9/11, caused marathon registration to fall 40%... With that first year (and a second) behind them, the new organizers have set their sites toward becoming one of the country's largest (and best) marathons within the next few years.
Website for: The Long Beach International City Marathon
Working to Build a World-Class Event
To some, the success of a marathon is measured by the number of runners it attracts, and/or by the fast runners that it draws and the times that it produces. The biggest/richest marathons can satisfy both criteria, but when a small race consistently succeeds in attracting the elite runners, we're impressed!
Brooks Pharmacy Ocean State Marathon & Half-Marathon (10/12/03)
There are few words to describe what Gerry Beagan has produced. In October of each year, you will find a world-class marathon in an unlikely spot. In 2002, 10 US marathons had winning times under 2:15. In 2002, 6 marathons had women finishing in under 2:29. In 2002, only four marathons met both of those marks: the Chicago Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon and...
The Ocean State Marathon has consistently provided some of the most exciting marathon races on North American soil. With $50,000 in prize money AND additional money available as time bonuses, this race, which had under 800 finishers in 2002, attracts major talent for a fall marathon, and needs to be congratulated, respected, and supported. If you'd like to run with the Kenyans, and are looking for an east coast alternative to NYC - think Rhode Island!
More info about : The Ocean State Marathon