Entries up for Ely Marathon Sept. 23

by Tom Coombe -

One of Ely’s events is growing.
The Third Annual Ely Marathon is just two weeks away, with the full 26.2-mile marathon and the 13.1-mile Boundary Waters Bank Half-Mara≠hon set for Sept. 23.
The races anchor a full weekend of festivities and have proven to be a major draw in their first two years of existence.
More than 450 people took part in either the half or full marathons in 2016 and organizer Wendy Lindsay said she’s hoping that total grows to 700 this year.
She has reason for optimism, as registration is ahead of last year’s pace.
“We haven’t doubled (participation) but we’re definitely up,” said Lindsay. “We’re hoping to get to 700, and that’s just for Saturday’s races.”
A five-kilometer fun run set for the evening before - Friday Sept. 22 - could attract 300 entrants and bring total anticipated participation to 1,000.
Together with family and friends, marathon participants provide an early-fall boost to the local economy and are likely to fill lodging establishments in the Ely area and beyond.
“I believe there are a few resorts that are intentionally staying open later (to accommodate marathon business),” said Lindsay.
Both defending full marathon champions, Nathaniel Langley of Madison, Wisc., and Auralee Strege of Duluth, are expected back to defend their titles.
The Ely Marathon offers one of the most picturesque courses in the upper Midwest, starting on the North Arm of Burntside Lake at Camp Du Nord and going past several lakes before heading downhill toward Shagawa Lake.
Runners will go through Winton, take a circuit around Miners Lake and come down Sheridan Street before finishing in Whiteside Park.
The city park serves as the hub of race day festivities, with the finish lines for both the full and half marathons and offering plenty of fun for spectators.
Food trucks will be present and the Ely Jaycees will sponsor a beer garden, while kids can try an “epic blow-up obstacle course” for much of the day.
Free entertainment is also in the works with Washboard Road performing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a free concert in the park from 6 to 10 p.m., featuring both Martin Zellar and the Hardways, and Rich Mattson, Germaine Gemberling and The Northstars.
While most race participants will run either 13.1 or 26.2 miles, a few will try their hand in the race’s Portage Division. So far, three people have indicated they’ll portage a canoe for the entire half-marathon route.
Also part of the race day event is the Dorothy Molter Root Beer Run, as children in grades 3-6 will complete their own 26.2-mile marathon, with 25 miles run over the course of several weeks in physical education classes, and the last 1.2 miles on the marathon course.
The marathon is sponsored by the Ely Chamber of Commerce and is a product of the area’s Events Coordinator Bureau, which brought the city of Ely, Ely Chamber, Incredible Ely and the Ely Area Tourism Bureau together in an effort to bring more events to the community.
Lindsay’s Stone Soup Events has been contracted to coordinate the marathon and she has traveled across the region to market the event, setting up shop at other road races.
“This year we wanted everyone in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa to hear about us,” said Lindsay. “We’ve contacted racing clubs. We went to about two dozen races and put flyers in other race packets.”
The goal is to make Ely Marathon weekend even bigger than it has already become.
“There’s absolutely room to grow,” said Lindsay. “We’d love to have several thousand runners.”