I was looking at a list of upcoming inaugural marathons and it got me wondering who likes to seek out the inaugural marathon to run. Marathons are a huge activity no matter how you look at it. Organizing one takes a lot of planning and logistics from bringing on sponsors to cover the various expenses related, dealing with town/city authorities for the necessary permits, advertising, putting together a good plan to draw runners to your event, and the list goes on and on.
Obviously, every race started as an inaugural race at some point. Many made it into an annual event and drew larger numbers of participants. Others had some issues before/during/after the race that caused it to be a one-time event. Fortunately, that does not seem to scare people away as more events are planned all the time!
I have run in a few inaugural marathons (first inaugural marathon I did was the National Marathon in DC, another was the Illinois Marathon) and an inaugural ultramarathon (the Beast of Burden Winter edition). I like the idea of supporting a running event that is trying to establish a new presence. I know it takes a lot to put these races on and for almost every race director, it is a pretty thankless job. Except for the major marathons (like NYC and Boston), race directors are not paid full-time to handle the event. So these individuals are giving of their time to give back to the hobby of running and to try and highlight their particular corner of the world. To be able to have a part in supporting that effort is a pleasure.
That being said, I will not commit to travel to an event like that unless the planning is progressing well and they have some type of a major sponsor (whether it be local company or a running company). I like to see that they are doing a good job in organizing everything for their first big event. If it was a 5K, I would have no problem just signing up that morning to do something. But in the case of a marathon, there is the training to be done and specificity training to prepare adequately for the course. If travel is involved, there are tickets to be purchased and vacation time to secure. To do all of that only to have the event be cancelled is a huge inconvenience and disappointment.
There was a 100 miler that I thought sounded very cool. It was a road ultra (which can be difficult on the body but really add some great sites to the course) that ended in Boston. The idea of finishing in a major city sounded really great. I was already at my training volume for a difference race so I just thought I would wait and see how the planning progressed. Here were a couple of warning signs that I took note of along the way:
- Constant announcement of “special sponsors” that would be revealed soon only to be put off again and again
- The promise of having big-named movie stars and athletes at the finish area
- No mention of the young organizers ever having done a 100 miler themselves or having any race director experience
- Sporadic posting of announcements or hard facts
Sure enough, they ended up not having it but they never officially cancelled it. They just stopped talking about it and answering questions. If I had obtained travel itineraries for this race, I would have been very unhappy.
In contrast, the other inaugural marathons/ultras that I have done, were well organized and had a lot of major sponsorship backing. The organizers kept up a constant stream of communication and kept everyone informed each time a new sponsor joined and how the planning progressed. Each event ended up being very well run. Of course, there were some minor things that they made note of for the next year (things like placement of porta-potties, placement of fluid tables, difficulty in merging with other runners from the other distances, etc) but I knew all of that going in. These are brand new events – there are going to be some small things that they will learn to work on. Even the big marathons make corrections each year on ways they can improve. Do you know what the biggest compliment is to an inaugural running event? The repeat runner! Each of the inaugural marathons/ultra that I had done I actually went back to do the following year.
So, with all of this being said, would you run an inaugural marathon? Would you travel to one? What do you like about the idea of the inaugural marathon and what would you like to see done in one? Below is a list of upcoming inaugural marathons. I am not endorsing any of these races as I do not have first-hand knowledge of the events or the race directors but I am listing them here for you to decide if they are of interest to you.[table “” not found /]
Any of these sound of interest? I like the fact that all have major, local backers (hospitals, clinics, etc). Illinois really is ramping up the marathons in the state! Whether it is one of these or another, think about trying an inaugural marathon at some point. It is a great way to show your support and to experience a race that no one before ever has! 🙂