Growth Of Columbus Marathon Follows National Trend

Listen to the Story

Participation in the marathon and half-marathon has more than doubled over the past five years.(Photo: Columbus Marathon)
Participation in the marathon and half-marathon has more than doubled over the past five years.(Photo: Columbus Marathon)

The 32nd Columbus Marathon and Half-Marathon will be held October 16th.  17,000 runners and other participants will assemble downtown for the two events.  The popularity of the Columbus marathons is following a national trend.

The Columbus Marathon and Half-Marathon begin on Broad Street near the Statehouse.

34-year-old Ryan Wilkins will be among the runners. He says he used to have a misconception about running.

“For me, I grew up an athlete and our coaches used to punish us by making us run,” Wilkins says.

But as an adult, a friend challenged him to try running for fun.  After a month, Wilkins says, he was hooked.

“I loved the way it made me feel,” Wilkins says. “It wasn’t even more than maybe six months later that I thought well maybe I’ll try running a half-marathon and I did that and enjoyed it.”

For Wilkins  this will be his second full marathon – 26.2 miles.

Growing Field

For the past few years, participation in the Columbus Marathon and Half-Marathon has grown.  In 2009, 14,000 people registered.  Last year the number was 15,000.  This year 17,000 people will be hitting the streets.  Darris Blackford is director of the Columbus Marathon.

“This year we’ll have 11,000 people just in the half marathon; 6,000 in the full marathon; the total is 17,000; so really two-thirds of the participants are doing the 13.1 mile and that’s been the biggest growth not only for us but really nationwide,” Blackford says.

Second Running Boom

Marathons nationally are getting more popular.  More than a half-million people took part in marathons last year and the numbers continue to rise.

The Columbus events are sell-outs as they have been in past years and that, too, is a national trend; which might be surprising given the bad economy.  Bart Yasso is the CRO – the Chief Running Officer – at Runner’s World magazine.

“All the races are selling out at a record pace and there’s more people running, so the down economy hasn’t stopped people from spending money on their sport of running,” Yasso says. “In fact I think it’s made them stronger, they stick to it more, because it really is what they need to relieve that stress and feel good about themselves and even if they’re struggling in other ways they’ve kept running as their passion.”

But what makes a person want to go the 26-mile-distance?  John Elliott, the president of MarathonGuide.com says it’s the event’s mystique.

“The marathon is kind of a mystical event; it’s a mystical distance,” Elliott says. “And there’s a lot of history behind it.  Everyone’s heard about how difficult a marathon is and so because of that it’s a great achievement.

And that, says Elliott, spurs others.

“They see what kind of excitement the person has experienced while they were training and then running and the sense of satisfaction having completed a marathon,” Elliott says.  A lot of people become interested in it.

One of those new people is Victoria Williams who’ll attempt the half-marathon on Sunday.

“I think I’ll finish.  I won’t be Number 1,  I know that.  But just saying that, ‘I signed up for a half-marathon,’ ‘I went forth with my half marathon and I actually finished my half-marathon,’ that’s all I just want to say one day is that I did it,” says Williams.

Marathon director Darris Blackford hopes to make room for 20,000 participants next year to mark Columbus’ bicentennial.

Comments