Med-City Marathon becomes family-friendly festival
Don't look now, but the Med City Marathon has turned into much more than a 26.2-mile road race.
In fact, dash on down to the race finish line area in front of Mayo Civic Center this weekend, and you'll find kids races and activities, live music, mascot races, a happy hour, a fitness expo and after-race parties.
"We're having fun trying to grow it," said marathon director Wally Arnold. "We keep adding things, trying to make it a family fun weekend."
The marathon itself is held, as it always has been, on Sunday morning, smack in the middle of a three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend. The festivities, though, are spread over two days.
All of this started when Arnold and his wife, Peg, who had founded the marathon and then bowed out of a few years, took up the reins again three years ago.
"When we took it back, we decided we wanted to grow the event more," Wally Arnold said. "That's when we added the fitness expo."
The fitness expo features exhibitors for health-conscious, healthy lifestyle and running-related goods and services.
Also added in recent years have been the mascot races, the kids marathon, the diaper dash and the toddler trot. A kids' play zone has three large inflatables and other activities. The idea, Arnold said, is to bring more families downtown to take part in marathon-related activities. And it has worked. "We've experienced that on Saturday," he said. "It's a pretty large attendance of families."
Along the way, kids are getting hooked on running. Up to 900 kids are expected to take part in Saturday's kids' marathon, and another 150 to 200 will race in the Diaper Dash and Toddler Trot. "They'll finish at the same finish line as the marathon," Arnold said.
Afterward, the kids can watch the mascot races, which will involve at least 10 mascots.
For adults on Saturday, a happy hour, with free beer, follows the 5k walk/run.
Sunday's main race starts at 7 a.m. in Byron, with first finishers reaching the finish line a couple of hours later. By then, the kids' play zone will be open again. A post-race party, with music by the Reunion Band, and free beer, will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
But that's not the end of the fun. Even the most exhausted runners will have recovered by 8 p.m., when the after-party starts at Dooley's Pub in downtown Rochester. Music will be provided by the band Switch.
In addition to providing activities for the whole family on the holiday weekend, the marathon is enticing runners and their families — at least 20 percent of whom come from outside the area — to spend the weekend in Rochester.
"We're in a good situation," Arnold said. "We've got a lot of hotels, and Mayo Clinic patients go home for the long weekend, so we've got plenty of rooms at a reasonable price."
With all of this going on, Arnold isn't done yet with expanding the marathon weekend activities. "We've kicked around the idea to see if anybody would put on an art in the park, maybe a flea market, maybe expand the farmers market for that weekend," he said. "We throw out different ideas every year. We want to get people to come downtown and partake of the marathon and the events. We're proud of it."