CELINA — Area runners can look forward to a new run Sept. 27, an event organizers hope will improve the local economy and Grand Lake St. Marys’ reputation.
At a press conference announcing the event, organizer Roger Bowersock expressed his excitement for the marathon runners can use to qualify for the Boston marathon.
Bowersock, owner of Rocketship Sports out of Greenville, said he has thought about bringing such an event to the Grand Lake region for many years.
“This year it is finally going to be the year that we make it happen,” he said. The full marathon will circle the lake, 26.2 miles, and the half marathon will start in St. Marys and end in Celina, totaling 13.1 miles.
Bowersock also said children will be able to participate in their own marathon in conjunction with the event.
“Kids will be able to run and calculate their mileage up to race day and then run the last mile at the finish line with the crowd and everything that’s going to be there,” Bowersock said. The event will also feature 5K and 10K events.
From a tourism aspect, Bowersock expects the run to bring outsiders to the area because it is qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.
Scott Frey, who attended the conference as future president of the Auglaize-Mercer County Convention Visitor’s Bureau, said the event would be great to increase tourism to the area and to show off the lake.
He also provided an estimate of the economic impact it could have on the area.
“To give you an idea, financially, the CBV kind of keeps an eye on these sort of things and has tools to make some calculations, we’re guessing, depending on the numbers in the race and how many folks they bring, this could be a half million to a million and half dollar economic impact in September…when you factor in restaurants, gasoline and discretionary tourism dollars spent on side things in the area,” Frey said.
Bowersock noted that ideally, his hope for the number of runners would be around 2,500.
However, as this is a first-time event, the 280 people who have already registered from 11 states are a sign of encouragement as the event has had no marketing so far.
The event is a nonprofit one, he said, and his intent is to give back financially to Call Food Pantry in Celina, Agape Ministries in St. Marys and to the LIA for their contributions to the local communities.
While the event will be a huge undertaking, he said, between working with ODOT to schedule road closings during the marathon and with the police departments to take care of event safety, he voiced his hope that local businesses and organizations will express their eagerness to help and to take advantage of the opportunity the marathon will provide.
“In the end, it’s going to be a huge economic impact, huge tourism boost to the area, and hopefully we can get the support and everybody will support the race,” he said.
President of the Celina City Council Jason King, who spoke at the press conference, noted that the event will provide some much-needed positive feedback regarding the lake amidst the challenges and negative press it has seen.
“This is a great event that we’re going to be having here,” King said. “I’m excited to hear about this.”
Also there to voice his support for the event was State Representative Tony Burkley.
“I’m always excited about opportunities that present themselves in regards to the lake,” Burkley said. “It just makes my job that much easier when it’s highlighted…the rest of the state of Ohio takes an interest in what goes on in this area.”
Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Manager Milt Miller echoed King’s comment that the event will be a great way to showcase the lake and how far it has come in recent years.
St. Marys Mayor Pat McGowan said he hoped the surrounding communities, especially St. Marys and Celina, will join together their efforts for more events like this one in the future.
The lake is a “common denominator,” he said, and should become a point of unity among the surrounding cities and villages.
For more information, visit GrandLakeMarathon.com, RocketshipSports.com, or contact Bowersock at 937-417-5772.