One of Burlington’s largest events of the year is set for Memorial Day weekend. Over 7,000 people are expected to participate in the Vermont City Marathon May 26th.
This will be the 31st year runners have taken to the streets and byways of Vermont’s largest city to run in full- and half-marathons or participate in relays. The certified course begins at Battery Park overlooking Lake Champlain. It winds through the downtown, the city’s north and south ends, along the bike path and ends at Waterfront Park.
RunVermont coordinates a number of programs including the Vermont City Marathon. Marketing and Communications Director Jess Cover says on race day, one priority is assuring the general public is aware of rolling street closures. “We put out a lot of communication to folks that are going to be in the area, that live in the area saying hey this is when your street is going to be closed and this is when it’s going to be opened back up. A lot of people they really get into the spirit of it and they say you know what my street’s going to be shut down. I’m either going to come out and cheer or I’m going to come out and volunteer. And some people just opt to get out of town. (laughs) But it’s important to us to try to make sure we’re not impacting the city in a negative way. The marathon does bring about $3.5 million to the city on marathon weekend.”
Those running the full marathon pass through the Church Street Marketplace twice. Executive Director Ron Redmond says events like this drive the success of the downtown marketplace. “We get them around 7:20 and again around 9:20. So runners are all over our city but we particularly love it happening on the marketplace. Some of our outdoor cafes set up early and people come and enjoy a coffee and cheer on people as they’re running by. RunVermont is amazing. We have runners that come through and that are getting water and dropping their cups and in a matter of minutes the volunteers have picked everything up. So it’s like you would never have known that thousands of runners just came through your street. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Cover expects about 7,500 runners to participate in various divisions this year. “We have the marathon which is the full 26-point-2. We have what we call the half-and-half relay. So each runner is running 13-point-1 handing off at the halfway point. And then we have what’s called the three-to-five person relays. Most teams do it with five people. The first leg is the shortest. It’s a little over 3 miles and the rest are in the 6 mile range and so they’re just handing off at different points along the course. And then within that we have age group awards and a business division and family division and all that.”
Cover finds that runners are surprised by the community’s support. "You know even though we’re not one of the big what they call a major marathons we feel like a big marathon in a good way and then a small marathon in the sense of the community. Our runners can’t believe how much of the community comes out to support them. I mean it’s like kids with popsicles and garage bands and people with kazoos. I mean just coming out and supporting those runners. And it’s definitely different. It’s not like that at every marathon or every race. So I think the you know we call it the vibe. The vibe that the runners get whether they’re locals or whether they’re coming you know from California they really feel that they’re embraced by the Burlington community.”
The Vermont City wheelchair competitors begin at 7 a.m. Sunday May 26th. Full marathon and relay runners start three minutes later.