Mankato has had a reputation of a big regional city without much in the way of high-profile annual celebrations or events.
The key to success, it appears, is in the growing sport of running.
Saturday’s second annual Mankato Marathon demonstrated the city has created a big-name event that should only grow in popularity for many years to come.
Organizers fell a bit short of an ambitious goal of attracting 5,000 runners this year — a big increase over the 2,000 who participated last year.
But the races drew an impressive number of runners — 4,000 — along with many more family members and other onlookers who watched the marathon.
The weekend’s activities went off without a hitch, aided by perfect weather.
The Greater Mankato Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with race management company Final Stretch, topped last year’s inaugural race in several ways. They added races so there are now a 5K, 10K, KidsK, half- and full-marathon races. Some minor adjustments were made to the route to make it easier on runners’ legs as they ran downhill and to provide a better finishing route, and organizers added a jumbo video screen near the finish line.
The economic impact of the marathon isn’t known — an in-depth survey is being done this year — but the benefits are obviously large. The event brings in participants from a wide area and out of state — people who likely wouldn’t otherwise visit Mankato. And the runners and their families stay at least one night and often two nights.
Besides the economic impact, the marathon brings people in to see the natural beauty of the Minnesota River valley and showcases the things to do and see in the area.
With the marathon, along with things such as the new sculpture art walk, RibFest and arts and crafts festivals, Mankato is establishing the cultural and entertainment venues that fit its status as a regional center.