FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Pasadena Marathon Downgraded to Half-Marathon Status
On its fifth anniversary, Pasadena Marathon has been downgraded to
half-marathon status because city officials say the low number of entries
for last year's full 26.2-mile event doesn't justify closing down wide
areas of the city in 2013.
"The question is, is Pasadena big enough for a full-scale marathon?"
Assistant City manager Steve Mermell said. "And based on the number of
participants and the community impact we felt that wasn't the case. "
About 1,000 runners took part in the full marathon last year, with about
850 completing the course, and Mermell said that wasn't enough to justify
issuing a 2013 permit to restrict access and close streets city-wide for
hours on the June 30 race day.
"We certainly were very, very disappointed," Pasadena Marathon founder
Israel Estrada said Wednesday.
Estrada, who will step down as race director at Pasadena Forward following
this year's event, said losing the full marathon is a "huge step down" in
prestige for the event.
"I explained to them the many challenges, and why we have not been able to
bring back many participants," Estrada said.
First, he said, city staffers won't give the marathon a set date every year
and don't decide on a date far enough in advance to attract runners
creating a schedule.
"Instead of helping us, they're working against us," Estrada said. "Whether
by design or not, that's what's happening. When they don't give us a date
right away so we can open up (registration) it always hurts."
As for the "low participation" cited, Estrada said the staff is comparing
the fledgling Pasadena Marathon to such major events as the Boston, New
York and Marine Corps races that have built up over decades.
Some started with a few hundred racers and now attract upwards of 20,000
participants, he said; staging a half-marathon is cheaper by about half -
he estimates this year's cost at about $250,000 - but he said Pasadena is
"It will be more a local event," he said of the upcoming half-marathon,
10K, 5K and Fun Run events. "We're not going to get the same number of
people coming from England, Germany, Brazil, Australia - we've had 20 or 30
different countries represented, and it's something you build on year after
year and eventually you get to the New York Marathon. "
The popular bike tour has also been cancelled, he said, because it follows
the full marathon route.
Mermell said half-marathons are "very popular with the majority of people,"
and far fewer runners do the full marathon.
"When we look at the city and look at the course for the full marathon and
the impact it has, closing down that much of the city for 800 runners
doesn't make a lot of sense," he said.
Pasadena has already hosted a half-marathon this year - the first Rock 'n'
Roll event on Feb. 20.
It started and ended at the Rose Bowl - which the Pasadena Marathon has
never been permitted to do - and was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, which
previously sponsored the Pasadena Marathon.
The downgrade is just the latest in a series of challenges the Pasadena
Marathon has faced.
"If anything, the event has proved (the Pasadena Marathon) is resilient,"
said Michelle Bernal, program manager in the city's economic development
office. "Fire, heat, hail, rain - they've just about had it all and they're
still standing. Hopefully this year they'll be able to pull off a great
event for the city. "
This year's route has "definitely changed" without the full marathon,
In another change, Bernal said a 15-minute "pace" clock will reduce the
time runners can be on the streets. Stragglers who can't complete the 13.1
miles in roughly 3.5 hours will have to finish the route on sidewalks on
reopened streets and make their own way back to the finish line, she said,
Bernal said the city is working on a public access map that will "shortly"
be released to the public.
Mermell said the city has "continued to work with the (marathon) event
promoters" but cited "some challenges and concerns" which contributed to
scaling the event back this year.
"After every event we take stock on how well it went ... and last year
there were concerns along the race route that there weren't sufficient
amounts of water, or there were no cups for it," Mermell said.
Pasadena Forward, the marathon organizers, "operates a relatively small
organization and rely on other contractors to assist them," he said, "I
think the city has a very good working relationship with them and being
understanding ... but the city as a whole is interested in making sure it's
a quality event, and the public safety concerns are, will runners and
participants be safe, will they have water along the route - these details
Estrada said there was plenty of water, and cups, last year but
acknowledged that distribution along the route wasn't uniform.
Mermell said if the event continues to build and shows more strength, the
full marathon could return.
But Estrada says he's finished with the effort.
"I didn't expect it would be easy, and I expected challenges along the way,
but I didn't think it would be this hard - and I didn't think the
challenges would come from local government," said Estrada, who briefly ran
for a Pasadena City Council seat in the March elections. "I don't want to
spend my life fighting city staff. I want to move on, probably to other
events in different cities."