By Samantha Mehlinger - Staff Writer
October 8, 2013 - Whether you’re in it to win it, working toward a healthier lifestyle, helping a cause or just having fun, the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon has something for everyone. In its 29th year, the series of running, walking and bicycling events through some of the most scenic parts of the city promises to be just as popular as ever, with an anticipated 25,000 participants.
The event shines a spotlight on Long Beach, attracting out-of-towners and drawing residents out of their homes for what International City Bank (ICB) Chairman Jane Netherton calls “a good, wholesome event.” Bob Seagren, CEO of RUN Racing, says that around 75,000 onlookers are expected to cheer on runners at nearly all points of the course. RUN Racing, an organization specializing in endurance, fitness and health events, plans and runs the marathon.
Netherton blasts the starting airhorn at 6 a.m. on race day, October 13, beginning the 26.2-mile marathon with a bang. She wouldn’t miss it, she says – she has blasted the airhorn since ICB became the title sponsor 13 years ago.
The 20-mile Volkswagen Think Blue Bike Tour starts concurrently with the marathon, followed by the half marathon at 7:30 a.m. and the Miller Children’s 5K Run/Walk an hour later. “I think it’s a great way to spend a Sunday,” Netherton says. Kids have a chance to use their sneakers the day before at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s mile-long Kids Fun Run.
On Friday or Saturday before the big day, participants must visit the Health & Fitness EXPO at the Long Beach Convention Center to pick up their packets. It also allows runners to visit the several dozen vendors who have products for sale or information to share. The EXPO is also open to the public.
Repeat runners may notice the course has shifted slightly, remaining on the bike path for the Belmont Shore stretch rather than weaving around the front of the Belmont Plaza Pool, which is being reconstructed. The bike tour, which now runs in the opposite direction of the marathon, has been reduced by 6.2 miles. The 6 a.m. start time is new as well. “We’ve had a lot of marathoners request that they would like to get an earlier start than 7 a.m.,” explains Seagren. As always, a festival waits at the finish line on Shoreline Drive.
Those who like to run for a cause have ample opportunity at the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon. Twenty-nine organizations that support varying causes are part of the marathon’s charity program, including local and national non-profits like the Long Beach Rescue Mission and the YMCA. Since 2005, RUN Racing’s annual event has raised “well over $4 million” for charities, according to Seagren.
Charity fundraising is one of the reasons ICB is so proud to sponsor the event – and the visibility for the bank doesn’t hurt, either, Netherton remarks. “I have had people come to me and say ‘We would really like to talk about doing some business with you – it’s really great that you do a lot in the community, and the marathon sponsorship is wonderful,’” she says.
Netherton doesn’t participate in the sports aspect of the event – “I don’t even run to the mailbox to catch the mailman” – but, after watching for so many years, she finds herself inspired by the participants. One year, she witnessed a man fall just a couple hundred yards from the marathon finish line. Rather than passing him, two runners stopped and carried his weight on their shoulders to help him complete the run. “It wasn’t about their time,” Netherton recalls. “It was sportsmanship. That said something to me.”
Since RUN Racing and Seagren took over the event in 2001, it has more than quadrupled in attendance – from 4,500 participants then to about 25,000 today. “I knew as long as Bob Seagren was at the helm of this that it would be a class operation, it would be run with integrity and it would be the best it could,” Netherton says of his management.
The thousands of visitors coming to Long Beach to participate in or watch the events, along with their families or friends, stay at local hotels. That amounts to more bed tax dollars for the city, Netherton points out. “It’s a great source of revenue, not just for the city, but for the businesses within the city,” she says. Restaurants are one type of business that benefit greatly, she notes – just think of all those hungry athletes.
“We know that we’re filling [hotels in] Seal Beach, Long Beach and certainly past the airport,” Seagren says. He estimates between 8 percent and 12 percent of participants come from outside a two-hour travel radius.
The overall economic impact of the events to the City of Long Beach was estimated by RUN Racing at about $12.5 million in 2010, and about $24 million for the region the same year. “We have gotten bigger since then, so we know that number has increased,” Seagren says. As the 30th anniversary of the marathon approaches next year, Seagren is hoping for even more growth. “Our biggest year was 2009, which was our 25th anniversary, so we’re excited about next year being our 30th,” he says. “We’re anticipating record numbers.”