By Micheal Gougis - Contributing Writer
September 25, 2012 - Good times, tough times, the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon keeps on keepin’ on, delivering good times for thousands and thousands of distance runners and positive vibes for the City of Long Beach.
This year’s event, scheduled for October 7, will be the 28th running (pardon the pun) of the event, which draws competitors from around the world and across the generations. There is a hard-core group of marathoners who have completed every single Long Beach event since its inception.
And organizers expect, as usual, for this year’s event to be larger than last year’s race, attracting a record crowd of runners, walkers, kids and bicyclists.
“We’re expecting, when all is said and done, an increase of about three to five percent,” says Bob Seagren, CEO of RUN Racing, the company that owns and operates the event.
“We’ve had years of 10 percent increases, and we’ve had years of smaller increases, but we’ve never gone backward – running seems to be somewhat recession-proof.”
Overall, organizers say they expect this year’s event to draw around 25,000 participants for the marathon and half marathons (sponsored by International City Bank again in 2012), the Bubba Gump Run Forrest Run 5K race, the one-mile Aquarium of The Pacific 1-Mile Kids Fun Run the day prior to the main events, and the Volkswagen 26.2-mile Think Blue Bike Tour on the marathon route on the morning of the big race.
The route is scheduled to remain the same beautiful, picturesque tour of the shoreline and the neighborhoods that make Long Beach the unique, vibrant community that it is. Through and around the bay, along the bluffs that overlook the beach and the Pacific Ocean, through some of the most beautiful parks and neighborhoods anywhere in Southern California, and through the grounds of California State University, Long Beach, runners will be surrounded by environs that serve as a stunning backdrop for their amazing athletic achievements.
It’s a big event, the third-largest happening in the City of Long Beach on any given year. And more than that, it’s big, positive publicity for the city and it’s an economic engine that drives the community’s economy forward.
“It has a solid base, and they continue to build on it every year,” says Jane Netherton, CEO of International City Bank, title sponsor of the event for more than a decade.
“I go to Orange County and I see people wearing the Long Beach Marathon t-shirt, and I ask them, did you run it? And they tell me how much they enjoyed it, how well it was run,” she says. “And they ask me if I ran it, and I tell them no, I sponsor it!”
It’s good business for the bank to sponsor the event, Netherton says. But that’s because of the quality of the event and the feelings it evokes from the participants, their supporters and the community alike. “It’s a lot of visibility for the bank. But it’s more than that. It’s a lot of positive publicity for the city,” Netherton says.
“Every runner brings two or three people to the event with them. So the streets are filled with people, the restaurants are full, the hotels are full, the stores are full.
“The course is excellent and the communities really come out to support it. When they routed the course through the university, the students came out to support it. And even though it’s a for-profit event, charities can go to the event and sign people up to raise money. It’s a feel-good. It’s a lot of positive publicity for Long Beach, and that’s why we want to be a part of this event.”
The marathon remains part of the Beach Cities Challenge, which offers special recognition to anyone who completes three consecutive marathons or half marathon races in the qualifying events – the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon, the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach and the Orange County Marathon in Newport Beach. The Beach Cities Challenge program has turned out to be immensely popular, with 75 percent of runners who have run two of the events consecutively throwing their hat into the ring for the third, seeking that special commemorative medal.
And the Beach Bum Club, for runners who compete in three or more consecutive Long Beach events, continues to grow, with a special commemorative pin available for 2012 participants that is designed to be displayed on the medal runners will earn for completing the event.
Of course, the event has an impact that goes far beyond the 26.2-mile route. Charities associated with the marathon raise funds for their activities, and the marathon community has been generous, with more than $4 million raised by the Long Beach race alone since the charity event started in 2005, and more than $1 billion raised by marathons in the U.S. on an annual basis.
“There’s a huge benefit for a lot of people in the city, and the event helps a lot of local and national charities raise a lot of money. It gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling,” Seagren says. It’s an amazing event, and one that keeps on keepin’ on . . .
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