Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mankato Marathon meeting recap

When it comes to hosting a big event like an inaugural marathon, it's never too early to start planning. However, in the opinion of Mankato Marathon race director Mark Bongers, it's never too early to start getting input from those planning to participate in said marathon either.

That was the premise Bongers had in holding the marathon runner's forum Tuesday night at the Verizon Wireless Center. While the marathon is still in the formative stages of planning, Bongers was looking to get an idea of what runners would like to see in the race based off of positive racing experiences they've had in the past.

"In my experience, events like these come together much nicer if you get input early on instead of trying to adjust later," Bongers told the 30 or so runners who attended the forum, myself included.

The forum was organized into 6 different topics: Pre-race (i.e. events before race day), warm-up, the race course itself, the finish line, post-race and any other micellaneous concerns. Each topic had its own assigned table, where a group of marathon runners could discuss it and jot down notes. Every five minutes or so, groups were rotated to different topics.

A lot of topics were brought up throughout the meeting, but here is what came up in discussion most often:

-General race courses for the marathon, half marathon and 10K races. Bongers said that the courses are still awaiting approval by the city police and the marathon course is awaiting USA Track & Field certification to make it a Boston Marathon qualifier. However, the courses should be finalized by the end of December and course maps should be available on their Web site soon after. Here is what Bongers had in mind for the routes of each race, with each race starting at 8 a.m. in the Blakeslee Stadium parking area up at MSU and ending at the Verizon Wireless Center:
  • Half Marathon: From Stadium road, take a right onto Monks Ave, follow until County Road 90, take a right onto the South Bend bike trail, follow the trail until it connects with the Red Jacket Trail, follow the Red Jacket Trail back to the YMCA, Take a left on Riverfront Drive, run through Sibley Park and cut back towards the Verizon Center via the bike trail along the Minnesota River and Front Street.
  • Full Marathon: Same start as the half marathon, but take a left on County Road 90. From there, follow County Road 90 across Highway 22, take a left on County Road 83, follow County Road 83 until it turns into South Victory Drive, take a left onto Balcerzak Drive, take a left onto Monks Ave and once out to County Road 90, follow the half marathon course to the finish line.
  • 10K: This was the course Bongers was least descriptive about, though as it stands, he would like it to follow Stadium Road down to Stoltzman, which would then cut down to Riverfront and make its way over to the Verizon center from there.
-Medical staff and aid stations on the course: How many do they plan on having and where are they planning on getting volunteers from? Bongers said marathon organizers planned on contacting Immanuel St. Joseph on the matter and would make volunteer applications available on the marathon's Web site as soon as possible. As far as having medical staff stationed throughout the course, Bongers does not forsee that being an issue, as the Red Jacket and South Bend trails are both fairly wide open and offer a variety of entryways via other roads and trails.

-Getting local businesses involved in sponsorship. At present, Hyvee is only business to sponsor the race. Suggestions were made about having businesses sponsor water stations on the course or advertising their business through having coupons and other perks in runner's gift packages.

-Making the marathon marketable in the face of bigger races like Grandma's Marathon and the Twin Cities Marathon, which is being the held the weekend before the Mankato race. To this, Bongers said that there was basically no convenient weekend to hold the marathon. Other, more established marathons in the midwest are being ran throughout the year, and a schedule conflict was unavoidable (though one runner jokingly suggested that the marathon be ran in December). As far as marketability, Bongers has established a Facebook page for the marathon and hopes to get the word out with local businesses and the race's Web site after it's completed.

-Pricing. Although pricing for the marathon is not final yet, Bongers assured runners that it would be finalized and on the Web site by January, with pricing structures planning to offer early bird discounts to those who register early.

-Goal for number of participants. Bongers said he was shooting for 1,500 total participants in the 3 races, but was hoping to make to course accomodating should that number be larger. Concern was brought up as to whether or not the Red Jacket Trail would be wide enough to fit that many runners, but Bongers said organizers were planning on talking to the city about closing the trail for that morning to cut out any additional traffic on the normally-busy trail.

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