Marathon numbers stay downWhen Grandma’s Mara-thon officially closed registration Tuesday, executive director Scott Keenan looked at the entries and saw the lowest total in 15 years. There will be approximately 7,240 runners for the June 19 road race from Two Harbors to Duluth.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
When Grandma’s Marathon officially closed registration Tuesday, executive director Scott Keenan looked at the entries and saw the lowest total in 15 years. There will be approximately 7,240 runners for the June 19 road race from Two Harbors to Duluth.
Keenan says he isn’t surprised by a second straight year of dwindling numbers. After a race-record high of 9,888 entries in 2008, the marathon attracted 8,377 in 2009 and now about 1,100 fewer for the 34th annual run.
“The same factors we saw last year are still in effect and that’s what we told our board of directors – this is not a one-year issue,” Keenan said. “The recession is still on, and it isn’t cheap to travel to any marathon. There are other races to choose from; we have competition. There is growing trend of running half-marathons rather than mara-thons. And we have had three straight warm years on race day.
“We expected our numbers to be down again and we budgeted accordingly. We’ve spent as wisely as possible.”
The two-day Grandma’s Marathon festival, with a budget of $2.03 million, has record numbers in its accompanying races. There are 6,856 in the 20th Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon on June 19 and 1,648 in the 17th William A. Irvin five-kilometer race June 18, for approximately 15,750 in three races.
Grandma’s Marathon had sold out for 14 straight years from 1995 through 2008. This year’s entry total is the lowest since 1996.
The Duluth race is facing more regional competition. The Fargo Marathon is in its sixth year, and nearly 17,000 runners took part in four races May 21-22. There are two Minnesota events in their second year – last week’s Stillwater Marathon and the Minneapolis Marathon this Sunday.
While Grandma’s Mara-thon built its reputation on cool weather in its early years, the past three races have been warm. In 2007, it was 66 degrees at the marathon start and 74 by 10 a.m. In 2008, it was 59 degrees at the start and 70 by 10 a.m. Last year, temperatures were in the mid-60s by the 7:30 a.m. start, with 78 percent humidity, and climbed to 80 degrees by noon in downtown Duluth. At one point early in the race, medical officials considered stopping the mara-thon. The day before in Duluth it was cool and foggy.
Since last year, Keenan spoke with hotels and motels about marathon weekend room rates and the request, by some owners, for multiple-night stays. Of 87 lodging sites in the Duluth-Superior area and along the North Shore, 31 list a full occupancy for race weekend, according to the Visit Duluth web site.
“Two years ago we had the most runners in race history and we believe there will be a rebound,” Keenan said.
Lake County Highway Engineer Al Goodman will be one of three men honored by the organizers of Grandma’s Marathon June 17, the Thursday of race weekend. Goodman will be given the Rudy Perpich Public Service Award, which honors public employees and elected officials who contribute “time, energy, and service” to help with road closures, security, equipment support and road repair along the marathon course. The other award recipients are St. Louis County Sign Supervisor Kent Lunda and Duluth Police Lt. Ed Maroney. The three will be honored at a 7 a.m. breakfast June 17 in the Great Hall Ballroom at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Duluth.