In it for the long run

RACE: After shaky years, Capital City Marathon thriving as 2,164 register

May 17, 2010 

OLYMPIA – In the late 1980s, the Capital City Marathon was $6,000 in debt, and turnout and interest was dwindling.

But with some innovative changes, thrifty leadership and a friendly community approach, the Capital City Marathon was alive and well Sunday. The race that not long ago was experiencing declining signups and rising debt broke records for registration.

ENTRANTS UP

For the day’s three races – the marathon, half-marathon and 5-miler – a combined 2,164 runners registered.

“Our numbers were up,” said Lesley Roberts, race director. “Even the weather cooperated. Everything went well.”

John Riak may have been the feel-good story of the day. Riak, who didn’t decide to enter until last month, won the marathon in 2 hours, 36 minutes and 9 seconds, breaking a course record.

He ended Jesse Stevick’s string of four straight victories in the race. But Stevick’s wife, Jenny, was the first woman finisher, finishing in 3:11:12.

“At least they kept it in the family,” Roberts said.

BAG OF LOOT

Besides the friendly appeal of the race with its 800 volunteers, runners also received plenty of loot. For the $70 registration fee, runners got a stylish hooded stretch jacket, a colorful stuff bag and a locally designed coaster. The combined value was more than $70.

“Everyone loves the booty,” Roberts said.

That could help explain the race’s increase in turnout. Two weeks ago, registration for the half-marathon was closed because there was concern about not having enough jackets, stuff bags and coasters.

HALF-MARATHON BOOST

In the late 1980s, the half-marathon was added, despite uncertainties by the race board members. There was concern it would eclipse the marathon.

Instead, with 1,200 registered for the half-marathon, it’s kept the race alive.

“It’s been the engine that makes it run,” said Jerry Miller, the race president. “It helps us be financially secure.”

Miller said the decision not to rely on sponsorship has also kept the race out of debt. Registration costs are the race’s primary income.

“Sponsors come and go,” Miller said.

Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 gwood@theolympian.com

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