ELY – As summer wears on and most everything around here is canceled because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the Ely Marathon and its associated events are still on the calendar for the …
ELY – As summer wears on and most everything around here is canceled because of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the Ely Marathon and its associated events are still on the calendar for the end of September. The 26.2-mile race attracts hundreds of runners and gathers huge crowds at the finish line in Ely’s Whiteside Park.
Wendy Lindsay, who has organized the event since its inception, conceded last week that COVID-19 will determine whether or not the event will take place on Saturday, Sept. 26.
She has overseen the growth of the Ely Marathon and said she is holding out on making any final decision to postpone the sixth annual Boston Marathon qualifying running event.
“We have pushed forward with our plans, and pretty soon our big bills, like T-shirt printing, participation medals production and tent and sign rentals will be coming in,” Lindsay said. “July is when we begin to accumulate a lot of our costs for the race, and with such small margins for funding we hope to make a go/no-go decision at that point.”
“As far as registrations goes, we started out like gangbusters, and it is looking good. The question this year is how many runners will be willing to travel. We have a lot of runners who travel from a far distance to get here and need to make plans,” she said.
Last year’s Ely Marathon had about a thousand total runners, including the 5K run.
“Right now, there about 600 full and half-marathon runners registered,” she said.
“The Chicago and Twin Cities Marathons that take place after the Ely event are still scheduled to take place,” Lindsay added.
The Father’s Day weekend running of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth was canceled this year because of the coronavirus, and many other area sports and community events have also been scrapped this summer.
According to the Ely Chamber of Commerce, the Harvest Moon Festival scheduled for Sept. 11-13 is still a go. An inaugural ATV trail supporter gathering is also planned in Ely for September.
“Right now we are at the point where we will go (with the event),” Lindsay reiterated.” The only thing that would shut it down is if there are huge increases in COVID cases in September, and the state shuts down again.”
In the event that the 2020 Ely Marathon is canceled, registrations will transfer to next year, she added. “Other events are switching to virtual races this year, but I think it will work better for us to transfer the event to next year, because people like to come to Ely to experience our area.”
Participation has continued to grow. The 2019 marathon and 5K had more than 900 participants and almost 800 finishers in 2019.
Lindsay predicted a successful Ely event this year because other running events have been canceled and the local race remains a qualifying event for the prestigious Boston Marathon.
Ely Marathon participants can register up to Sept. 1. Registrations will again be accepted on the day before the marathon.
The full 26.2-mile marathon that starts on the Echo Trail and winds through the north woods into the middle of town, finishing at Whiteside Park, is just part of a weekend of festivities. Race day also includes a 13.1-mile half-marathon. And Ely’s own canoe portage division will again be featured this year where runners race while carrying canoes. The popular 5K race is held Friday evening.
A uniquely-Ely prize package awaits the canoe portage racers this year, according to Lindsay.
“The male and female winners of both the full and half marathons will win fully-outfitted canoe trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from Spirit of the Wilderness Outfitters for six days and three days, respectively,” she said. “And Northstar Canoes is offering a canoe to the fastest finisher in the portage division if they beat last year’s top time of five hours and one minute.”
Boundary Waters Bank remains the main sponsor for the half-marathon. Other major sponsors are still in the works, Lindsay said.
Race day could look somewhat different this year with public health protocols put in place due to concerns over the coronavirus.
“We will likely start the races in waves or chutes to help spread out the runners,” she said. Water stations located along the course could also see some changes, including passing out individual water bottles rather than cups.
“We are planning for fewer volunteers as well,” she said. “At the finish line, celebration events in Whiteside Park, like the entertainment, beer tent and children’s activities, could look different with social distancing guidelines in place. The park is big enough where we can spread out. We will have more information as we get closer to race day.”
A support group of race directors around the state continues to work with health officials to make sure races can take place in a safe manner, Lindsay said.
More information about the event can be found online at www.elymarathon.com.