Sporting Events and Sports/Recreation and Sports Business

City getting new marathon

February 11, 2008

Organizers for a new Indianapolis marathon and half-marathon think the event will become a national draw, showcasing downtown monuments and historic neighborhoods.

The first Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, to be held Nov. 1, is the brainchild of Carlton Ray, a former city engineer who worked in the Hudnut, Goldsmith and Peterson administrations. Ray recently resigned to pursue personal goals, with this event being a primary one.

"It takes time to grow something like this," Ray said, "but our long-term vision is to make this a destination marathon."

Ray, 49, has enlisted veteran race promoter Ken Long to direct the race and Bob Kennedy, two-time Olympian and owner of The Running Co., as a consultant. Ray and Long have put together an eight-person board to oversee the event. All members, Ray said, are experienced runners.

"It was critical that we put together an experienced team that gives this event real credibility," Ray said.

Organizers are capping combined participation for the 26.2-mile and 13.1-mile races at 5,000 the first year, but think it can attract well over 10,000 within a few years. Entry fees will be $50 for the half marathon and $60 for the longer race.

The new event has a ways to go to rival the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, which started in 1977 and has 35,000 registered to run this May. The Mini, which draws runners from around the world, costs $50 to enter and gives away $3,500 each to the men's and women's winners.

Organizers of the new races don't view the Mini-Marathon as competition, but they'd like to match its success. With a low-six-figure budget, a total purse of $10,800, and city officials' endorsement, they're already moving at a brisk pace.

"We have a wonderful downtown area and lots of wonderful neighborhoods, and lots of areas I think should be highlighted, and I think a marathon is a great way to do that," said Ray, who has run 23 full marathons.

Ray also wanted "to do something for the community." All the proceeds from the event will go to Indianapolis Public Schools and township schools within Marion County.

Ray's vision is to create a two-day event with a large downtown pre-race expo and other running-related activities.

While the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, a 13.1-mile race held each May, draws almost two-thirds of its massive field from a 50-mile radius, Kennedy thinks more people competing in a full marathon will use a downtown hotel.

"Due to logistics, and the fact that the race starts earlier and lasts longer, people are more likely to spend the night near the race's start area," Kennedy said.

Marty Day, owner of Runners Forum, a Carmel retail running store, thinks the event can succeed, but said in light of the failed Indy Classic Marathon last year, credibility will be a key issue. That marathon, which was set for September in downtown Indianapolis then postponed to November, was canceled after city officials raised concerns about course safety. The race's organizers-who included local runners Delen Parnella, Jeanne Johnson and Cliff Redden-said numerous volunteers abandoned them. Scores of runners who had paid an entry fee were left in the lurch.

"The one thing I want everyone to know is that this is not a revival of that event, and we are in no way affiliated with that event," Long said.

While Ray, Long and Kennedy give the new event name recognition, Day said the organizers have their work cut out for them.

"There's a marathon and half-marathon at Fort Ben less than a month before their event, and they'll also be competing for runners with established marathons in New York, Chicago and Columbus, [Ohio,] around the same time," Day said.

The Indianapolis Marathon, directed by local resident Joel Sauer, was started 11 years ago, and last year attracted 800 marathoners with another 2,000 participating in its half-marathon and 5K races, which were held at Fort Ben Oct. 21.

Long, who owns a company that also holds training classes in addition to operating races, plans to tap into his myriad contacts to bolster the event. Kennedy's company, which operates four central Indiana running stores and offers training clinics, could also be a key event marketer. IMM officials will also market the event through specialty running publications and Web sites, area sporting goods stores and at other area races, Ray said.

IMM officials are close to signing three major sponsorship deals for the race and another sponsorship package with a downtown host hotel. Long declined to say who the sponsors or host hotel would be. Race organizers are still looking for more corporate partners. Long said sponsors can get in for as little as "a couple thousand dollars."

Meanwhile, Ray and Long recently put the finishing touches on the race routes. The races will start and end near the Statehouse with pre- and post-race activities held in the Statehouse Rotunda. The courses will pass or wind through numerous high-profile downtown sites, among them the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Artsgarden, Lucas Oil Stadium, Monument Circle, Eli Lilly and Co.'s corporate campus and the Cultural Trail.

They will also wind through the Old Northside, Fall Creek Place and Meridian-Kessler neighborhoods. Other landmarks on the route are the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Butler University and Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Indiana War Memorial and the new Central Library.

The event derived its name from the fact that the course features many high-profile local landmarks and monuments, Long said, noting that only Washington, D.C., has more monuments than Indianapolis. The finishing medals and awards--which are still being designed--will feature the monument theme, Ray said.

The course should be a flat, fast course, Kennedy said, perfect for runners interested in running a qualifying time for the fabled Boston Marathon in April.

"This is the type of course a lot of people look for," Kennedy said.

Ray said he used his experience as city engineer to plot the course, including his knowledge of traffic patters, intersections, road surfaces, topography and potential safety concerns.

"There's been a lot of thought and planning put into this event," Long said. "We think it's going to be a smoothly operated event, and that will be another important drawing card."

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