Ely Marathon braces for growth

More runners expected; GB Leighton concert added to race festivities

by Tom Coombe -

The second Ely Marathon is shaping up to be bigger than the first.
While the event is still three weeks away, early registration suggests that participation should exceed 2015, when three races combined to attract almost 600 competitors.
“We have more runners than we did last year at this time,” said Wendy Lindsay, who organizes the marathon in her role as area event coordinator. “We’ll definitely be ahead of where we were last year.”
Lindsay said Wednesday that she anticipates about 800 participants in the event, which is headlined by the 26.2-mile race from Camp DuNord to Whiteside Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, but also includes the 13.1-mile Boundary Waters Bank Half Marathon the same day and a five-kilometer race the night before.
The races are the cornersone for a festive weekend in Ely, with Whiteside Park serving as the hub of the celebration.
Marathon and half-marathon finishers will run down Chapman Street and into the park to cross the finish line, where they’ll be greeted by race announcers presenting ongoing commentary as well as friends, family members and race fans.
Food and beverage vendors will set up shop in the park, and the marathon has added a major entertainment attraction - Twin Cities recording artist GB Leighton - for a live concert sponsored by the Ely DQ Grill and Chill.
A fixture on the Twin Cities music scene for a quarter-century, GB Leighton has performed numerous times in Duluth after Grandma’s Marathon and Ely is looking to him to provide a similar atmosphere for the free concert.
“He’s kind of known as a marathon musician,” said Lindsay. “He is just very connected with marathons and running.”
The Ely Jaycees will set up a beer garden that will be open during the day as well as for the concert, which starts that evening at 6 p.m.
Mayor Chuck Novak is also hosting mayors from around the state for the first “Mayor-A-Thon,” which will feature socializing rather than running.
The marathon will start at 7:30 a.m., with the half-marathon beginning a half-hour later, and organizers will take more steps to make residents, business owners and visitors aware of the route.
Maps will be distributed and advertised in local publications later this month, and most of the route will remain open to traffic throughout the day.
“There will be a lane for traffic and a pilot car leading the marathon,” said Lindsay.
In town, much of Ely’s Sheridan Street, as well as Chapman Street between Second Avenue East and the park, will be closed to traffic during the morning race.
While the race attracts marathon enthusiasts, there’s a spot for the casual runner and even children in the event.
The “Kids Marathon” is new this year.
“We’re working with the Tower elementary and the Ely school,” said Lindsay. “In the phy ed classes, they started in the spring and had the kids run a mile a day. They’ll start again once school starts until they’ve run 25 miles. Then they’ll do the last 1.2 miles of the marathon route and they’ll have run a marathon.”
The race weekend begins Friday, Sept. 23, with the Northern Lights Glow Run.
A fundraiser for the Northern Lights Clubhouse, the five-kilometer race starts at 6:45 p.m. in front of Vermilion Community College. Runners will receive a glow necklace at registration and are encouraged to wear glow wear to add to the sunset atmosphere. Registration is $35.
More information about the marathon weekend festivities can be accessed online (www.elymarathon.com), and participants may register online as well. Cost is $110 for the full marathon and $90 for the half.
Lodging facilities around the area filled for last year’s event and it’s already shaping up to be a tight weekend in Ely.
“We know already that people are having a hard time finding lodging,” said Lindsay.