Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JACKSONVILLE MARATHON; Race Course Could Be Moving Downtown on 21st Anniversary, Decisions Upcoming on Marathon's Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JACKSONVILLE MARATHON; Race Course Could Be Moving Downtown on 21st Anniversary, Decisions Upcoming on Marathon's Future

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID JOHNSON, The Times-Union

Twenty-first birthdays are often times for wild parties. But a celebration for today's 21st Jacksonville Bank Marathon would be more about longevity and survival.

A marathon boom in the mid-'90s helped save the local race, which was close to folding, and that continued growth has pushed the race to a crossroads. Race director Doug Alred admits some decisions must be made about the marathon's future in the next couple of years.

"There is talk we might go downtown and run a whole different course," said Alred, who organized the first Jacksonville Marathon in January of 1984.

The race moved to The Bolles School in 1988 from its old downtown course, because of a drop in participation.

Alred said returning to a downtown course would require more sponsors, more competitors and permits from the city that would involve new complications, including railroad tracks and bridges.

"You have to have a little more coordination," he said. "If you asked me that [if the race might be moved downtown] four years ago, I would have said I have no intention in going down there."

About 900 runners competed in the 1984 event. About 2,000 competitors are expected today. The Jacksonville Sports and Economic Commission provided the marathon with $12,000 -- of which $10,000 is used for prize money for this year's race, including $2,500 each for the male and female winners. The 2002 race paid only $300 to each winner, and Alred said the increase has attracted more professional runners, including former University of Florida runner Mike Mykytok, who won the 1999 10-mile national championship.

"We've getting a lot more attention with the Super Bowl," said Alred, who also directs the Gate River Run.

The marathon boom of the last decade is largely attributed to an increase in women's running, charity runners and training programs.

Walt Disney World Marathon director Jon Hughes remembers several years when Alred told him the Jacksonville Marathon might end, but Hughes said the race has found its niche. …

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