By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
The Mankato Marathon weekend is nearly two months away, but interest is already building.
According to numbers released by the Greater Mankato Convention & Visitors Bureau, advance registrations are up 25 percent from last year at this time. The fact that the event has been split up into two days may have added to the interest.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, there will be a 1K kids race and a 5K race for adults. That’s also the day the Scheels Sport and Health Expo will take place, along with the speaker series and pasta feed.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, the marathon, half-marathon, relay marathon and 10K races will take place.
The 1K and 5K races have seen the largest increase in registrations. The 1K is up 1.21 percent (to 41 kids), while the 5K is up 1.26 percent (to 165 adults). Those numbers should grow as the event nears.
The goal this year is to get to 5,000 runners, and the CVB believes it’s doable.
“I certainly hope we can get there,” said Anna Thill, the president of the CVB. “We’ve been ahead in our registrations for a long time compared to last year, and we know there’s always a lot of people who wait until the last minute to sign up. We think we’ll do it.”
Last year’s event had 3,699 runners, so a 25-30 percent increase would put the 2012 participation at right around 5,000.
This year, the Scheels Sport & Health Expo, the Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic Speaker Series and the annual Pasta Feed have all been moved to Bud Myers Field House on the Minnesota State campus. That decision was made when organizers changed the date of the marathon and the Verizon Wireless Center was already booked.
“We had to find a new venue, and we liked the idea of putting it somewhere where people didn’t have to drive around to get to different events,” Thill said. “The parking up at MSU made a that an attractive choice.”
Mankato Marathon coordinator Maureen Waltman has run Grandma’s Marathon in past years and said those events are also held close to each other in Duluth.
“I thought that worked pretty well so we decided to take a look at it here,” she said.
This year’s Expo begins at noon and runs until 8 p.m. The pasta feed goes from 4-7 p.m., and the keynote speaker for the speaker series will be Joan Benoit Samuelson at 7 p.m.
Samuelson was the first gold medalist for the women’s Olympic marathon in 1984. She also won the Boston Marathon in a world record time in 1974 and then re-broke her Boston Marathon record in 1983. She has been running competitively for 35 years.
“We’re just trying to make this a great experience for everybody who participates,” Thill said. “We’re excited about the changes we’ve made.”