The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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Jim Rueda

July 11, 2012

Rueda: Mankato Marathon continues to grow

MANKATO — Either Mankato area running enthusiasts are becoming more organized or the Mankato Marathon is simply becoming the event to be at in October.

The Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau released some early registration numbers this week, and the number of participants for the marathon is far out-pacing last year’s sign-ups at the same time.

The 5K run and 10K run have both seen a sharp increases in the number of registrants, while the half-marathon and full-marathon are significantly up as well.

In early July of last year, there were 639 people signed up for all the Mankato Marathon weekend events. At the same point this year there were 1,128 people signed up.

According to Christine Nessler, the marketing and leisure sales director for GMCVB, that’s a 77 percent increase over the previous year’s numbers. “If that pace keeps up, we will have more then 6,500 runners by race day,” she said in a press release.

So is it just a case of more area runners planning ahead and signing up earlier than they have previously? Or is there more to it than that?

Mankato Marathon coordinator Maureen Waltman believes there’s a lot more to it. The main reason, she says, is that word is getting out about what an exceptional course Mankato has and what a fun experience people have who participate.

“I’m very excited (the numbers are up),” she said. “Last year we surveyed all the runners at the end of the race, and they were all saying it’s a great race, it’s an awesome race. A lot of them said they’d be back next year, and I think we’re already seeing some of that.”

A year ago, there were 15 early registrants for the 5K race compared to 116 this year. The 10K had 66 early sign-ups compared to 142 this year. The half-marathon has gone from 340 to 550.

“I’m convinced that all three of those races are going to fill up,” Waltman said. “I’d be surprised if they didn’t.”

One reason Waltman believes the half-marathon is attractive to people is because it serves as a qualifier to the Boston Marathon. Much of the course is fast and flat, and that lends runners to believe that maybe they can qualify.

Changing marathon day from Saturday to Sunday may also have beefed up interest. Another factor is the GMCVB’s decision to ramp up their advertising.

Organizers had a booth at the Fargo Marathon this year and another one at the Madison (Wis.) Marathon. Word is getting out about what a good time it is.

“Mankato still has a lot of that small-town feel to it that many runners enjoy,” Waltman said. “And the downtown area is welcoming after the race, as well.”

The goal for this year is to get 1,500 participants (both relays and individuals) in the full marathon. At the rate they’re going, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or email jrueda@mankatofreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @jimrueda

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