Skaters on the course of the Minnesota Half Marathon.
The organizers of this weekend’s Minnesota Half Marathon are piping a happy tune as they get ready for the second year of their transformed event.
“We’re likely to have our best year ever,” said Podium Sports Marketing’s Mike Cofrin, “and that’s because of the combination of two sports in one event.”
In its earlier incarnation, the Minnesota Half Marathon was the Saint Paul Inline Marathon, a popular, though financially endangered, full and half inline marathon.
In 2004, its first year, the event attracted 1800 skaters, making it North America’s second largest skate marathon. But despite Podium’s strong promotional efforts, participation dwindled in subsequent years, eventually leveling out at about 1000 skaters.
While it remained North America's second largest inline marathon, it didn't attract enough skaters to remain financially viable, Cofrin said.
As a result, Podium decided last year to transform the event into the Minnesota Half Marathon, cutting the distance and opening it up to runners.
This year, runners will make up more than half of the participants. As of Monday, 900 runners had signed up, compared to 600 skaters.
Cofrin is expecting a few hundred more athletes to register before Saturday morning’s race.
Last year, the event drew 750 skaters and 600 runners.
Some skaters have grumbled about the change from full to half marathon and this has apparently kept some skaters away. But others have embraced the change. “Some skaters have told me that they are relieved to have a shorter distance to skate,” Cofrin said.
The change has also aligned the Minnesota Half as the official training event for the granddaddy of North American inline marathons, the NorthShore.
A Few Changes
As usual, the course follows the frontage road along the Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul. But this year, the direction has been reversed, so all the turns will be left. That means that the start at Lower Landing Park will be on a slight uphill.
Skaters will also find some nice stretches of fresh pavement, including the last two miles before the finish line. “It’s the best finishing surface we’ve ever had,” said race director Adam Kocinski.
Race time for skaters has been moved up to 7:30 a.m. CDT. (Runners start at 7:40 a.m.)
The event includes a fitness expo at 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the St. Paul Riverfront Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The Minnesota Half Marathon is a Major event in the 2010 National Roller Cup.
The Inline Planet will cover the race with a live blog starting at 7 a.m. CDT.
Copyright © 2010 by Inline Planet