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Salt Lake City Marathon heading in new direction

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Runners race at the start of the Salt Lake City marathon at the University of Utah Saturday April 20, 2013.

By Tom Wharton | The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 16 2014 10:02PM
Updated Apr 17, 2014 08:43AM

SLC Marathon Route Map by The Salt Lake Tribune

New owner. New course.

Welcome to the 2014 Salt Lake Marathon.

According to race director Steve Bingham, new owner Life Time Fitness feels strongly that the 11th annual marathon possesses the attributes to draw participants from all over the country.

"Life Time Fitness sees a wealth of growth opportunities in Salt Lake City," said Bingham, who is based in Denver. "With its access to a national platform with its clubs, you will see the Salt Lake City Marathon in front of more runners than ever before nationwide. With a beautiful course and a city like Salt Lake, I can only imagine the interest. This is one of the most beautiful courses potentially in the world and people need to know about it."

After major financial and organization problems hurt the race in recent years, U.S. Road Works took over the past two years from its original, troubled ownership. Life Time, which owns the Miami, Georgia and Atlanta marathons and Chicago Half Marathon and has a fitness club in the Salt Lake Valley, uses races such as these to help communities and people achieve health objectives.

This year’s event is expected to draw about 7,500 participants, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of spectators. Bingham said the half-marathon is the most popular. He expects between 1,200 and 1,500 to run the full marathon, about 1,000 to participate in the 5-kilometer run and about 150 kids in that race.

The new marathon course features an elevation gain of 362 feet over its 26.2 miles. In response to a post-race survey a year ago, Bingham said the course was changed with more of an emphasis on running in the heart of Salt Lake City, something many runners said they wanted.

The races will begin as in past years near the George S. Eccles Legacy Bridge at the University of Utah. But instead of heading off in the traditional south direction, runners will wind their way north through Federal Heights, the Avenues and Memory Grove before hitting Sugar House and Liberty parks, with the finish line at Library and Washington squares.

"In the past, the course started at the Olympic Legacy Bridge and went south into the valley," said Bingham. "It didn’t get anywhere near downtown until the finish."

Setting up the new course has been a challenge. Organizers have been doing outreach, leaving fliers in affected neighborhoods about road closures and potential impact to residents and businesses. Since the course crosses TRAX lines at different junctures, organizers have also worked with the Utah Transit Authority to make certain that the trains run as scheduled.

"Our number one goal is always to have folks have a safe run, come out with a great sense of accomplishment and have a lot of fun," said the race director.

The bike tour begins at 6 a.m., with the wheelchair and hand cycle race beginning at 6:10 a.m. The marathon and half marathon begin at 7 a.m., followed by the 5-kilometer run at 7:10 a.m. The kids "marathon" will start at 10:45 a.m.

As has been the case with past marathons as well as the Tour of Utah bicycle event, fans often line the street for an event like that. While there are 17 official aid stations where Mt. Olympus Water and Powerade will be offered to runners, many of those along the route sometimes offer their own "treats" as a way of offering encouragement to the runners.

"Our spectators are some of the best," said Bingham. "They are coming out with lawn chairs, orange slices, hot dogs and spreads of goodies. Just having people along the route cheering folks goes a long ways. Runners, who have a lot going on in their head if they are running a half or full marathon, often need the extra support when they are ready to throw in the towel. Spectators can be a game-changer. … They are crucial to our experience."

Online registration is closed and there will be no registration Saturday. Last-minute entrants could register at the Quality of Life Expo, which is scheduled Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena. That is the place where runners are also instructed to pick up their race packets, which include race numbers, timing chip, participant shirt and other race information.

The expo itself features vendors specializing in running-related gear, training programs, the latest technology, race opportunities, nutrition, race clinics and guest appearances.

Some runners will be running to raise money for the Huntsman Hometown Heroes Program, which provides funds for cancer research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the Hyundai Hope On Wheels 5K, where 50 percent of all revenue will help that group raise awareness for childhood cancer and go to research.

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