More than a marathon |

More than a marathon

Seven years young, the Lake Tahoe Marathon is one of the nation’s most beautiful runs.

And yet, it’s so much more than just a run.

In addition to the 26.2-mile race, which begins Oct. 13 in Tahoe City and ends in South Lake Tahoe’s Pope Beach, are a wheelchair marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10-kilometer run, 5K, ultra, a free kids’ “Fun Run” and a 10K team competition.

Still more events take place the week before, such as guided runs, tours and a Tahoe cruise.

The events, combined with the time of year and the location, help make the marathon a running success.

The marathon has thrived in its brief lifespan without a major sponsor, which further separates it from other major marathons.

Most of the revenue comes from runner registration fees, including the cash purse.

“It’s a lot of traveling, getting around the country, getting to know people and networking,” says Les Wright, race director and marathon founder on how the race has grown to include nearly 3,000 participants.

Two weeks after the marathon is over, Wright will get back on the road to promote next year’s event. He’s a regular fixture at running conventions, trade shows and marathons coast to coast.

“I go to all these places and I have trade booths there, and we put up our pictures, and pass out our brochures and talk one-on-one with other marathoners and runners, and that’s how they’re finding out about it,” Wright said. “And then the people who come here see what a beautiful event it is and spread the word.”

With nearly 3,000 runners, marathoners and walkers — and as many if not more spectators — the weeklong event that begins Oct. 8 draws world-wide participants.

By a large margin, it is Lake Tahoe’s single-largest running event.

“I really enjoyed the race, the first 16 miles anyway. (There are) no hills here in Bangladesh,” says Sandra Reid after last year’s marathon. “We combined the race with a family holiday to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe and loved both places. (It’s) a really spectacular course for a marathon.”

From Japan to Monaco, England to New Zealand, runners from around the world look to the Lake Tahoe Marathon as a destination.

The event has grown in each of its seven years with the luck of mild October weather.

Currently, registration is up about 10 percent from this time last year.

“A lot of people have always wanted to come here, and this is a good excuse,” Wright said. “Other people have been here and it’s a good excuse to come back.”

Even if you can’t run the marathon, the handful of activities and races during race week are arranged with a wide array of interests in mind.

Take, for example, the wheelchair marathon, or the 10K team competition, which is new this year.

For the elitist runners is the ultra, a race around the lake over three days. The 50 participants run a marathon each day starting Oct. 11 and finish Oct. 13.

For nonrunners are the sightseeing tours and visitor activities.

Ninety-eight percent of the 3,000 participants are from outside the greater Lake Tahoe area, Wright said.

Much of that is because of the promotion, and because the event is destination-oriented.

Oddly, the actual marathon is not the most popular event. About 600 marathon registrants have signed up thus far, and that number isn’t expected to increase much.

More runners sign up for the half marathon. About 1,100 are registered so far, but Wright expects to reach the maximum of 1,300 by race day.

Much of that difference is because the 26.2-mile marathon course is so difficult.

“It’s so tough people are afraid of it,” Wright said. “It’s not a race to make a good time. It’s a race to have a good time.”

The course is at or above 6,200 feet above sea level. The climb up to D.L. Bliss State Park is approximately 2 miles. The concrete descent into Emerald Bay is the crux for many who dread the pounding their knees, backs and ankles must endure.

Then, the course climbs to inspiration point and down to South Lake Tahoe.

A portion of the proceeds benefit local clubs, school teams and individual scholarships for college-bound marathon volunteers.

For more information, see

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