Editorial: Run organizers adapt to challenges

May 18, 2013
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If you go

The Cellcom Green Bay Marathon starts at 7 a.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field. The half marathon and marathon will start and end at Lambeau.


When it began in 2000, the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon attracted 4,722 registered for the marathon events. Today that number has climbed to more than 13,000 signed up for this weekend’s activities.

The success of the event is a tribute to the organizers as well as the community — the volunteers who help with prerace activities, staff water stations and help runners during the race; the hotels and businesses that benefit from and cater to the visitors; the medical community, which provides valuable assistance; and law enforcement and emergency personnel.

The weekend is one of personal achievement for the participants, whether you’re taking part in the WPS Kids’ Power Run, the 5K, the half marathon, the marathon relay or the full marathon.

Without these cogs, the wheels wouldn’t turn and the Green Bay marathon wouldn’t be so successful.

The success extends to businesses, too. The marathon events over the weekend represent about a $1.3 million economic impact on the greater Green Bay area. It puts this area in the spotlight and it helps area charities that benefit from the fundraising efforts by participants.

There have been some changes and stumbles along the way. The course eventually moved from a downtown start to Lambeau Field. It incorporated the Fox River Trail when the new portion of that path opened. In 2003, organizers moved the date of the marathon from late June to mid-May because of excessive heat with the summertime start. In 2004, the finish lines for the marathon and half marathon were moved to Lambeau Field. This year the event starts and finishes in the Lambeau area.

Along the way the Cellcom marathon was named one of the 10 most enjoyable marathons in the country by Runner’s World magazine, and the popularity of the event prompted organizers to make it a two-day event.

But it has not been without some controversy. In 2011, officials determined after the race that the course was 800 feet too long. And last year, oppressively hot and humid weather forced the cancellation of the half and full marathon about 2½ hours into the event. Eighteen runners ended up in emergency rooms and dozens more need medical attention.

Some second-guessed the officials’ decision. It was a tough call to cancel an event that many have had circled on their calendars for a year and have put in long hours on roads and trails training for. In the end, keeping participants safe is the main goal, and in the end, that’s the decision that was made. It was the right move.

This year, organizers have made some adjustments to the planning, command structure, location of facilities including the medical tent and patient-tracking. More medical workers will be on hand at the start of the event.

The terrorist attack at last month’s Boston Marathon will also have an impact. More law enforcement and security personnel will be at the event, and runners must check backpacks and bags with volunteers stationed outside the stadium.

Last year’s marathon will always be remembered as the one that was canceled because of the hot weather. That’s OK. Weather happens. We have no control over it, but we do control how we react to it.

Luckily for us, there’s another year and another chance to shine. We expect nothing else. The two-day event has almost tripled in size and that’s a testament to the efforts of the organizers, participants, volunteers and the community.

Good luck today to all the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon participants.

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