Nearly 2,500 participate in marathon |

Nearly 2,500 participate in marathon

Wearing a Lake Tahoe Marathon hat and shirt, Les Wright, organizer of the event, stood at the finish line and greeted runners and walkers like they were family.

One person jokingly complained to him that exercising at such a high elevation was near impossible. Wright responded: “We’ve just got beauty and no air.”

With nearly 2,500 people registered in the fifth-annual marathon, the most ever for the event, beautiful fall weather and a plethora of sponsors offering food and drink created a festive, fraternal atmosphere at the Pope Beach finish line.

But last minute glitches like Wright’s car not starting and two buses being behind schedule had the organizer sweating bullets early on. “It was a circus,” he said. “But everything worked out fine. It’s a great day and the runners bring so much energy and enthusiasm that it’s hard to worry about it.”

The first marathon at the lake was held in 1995. That year 350 signed up for the race and 270 finished. The next year registration skyrocketed to 1200 and it’s increased each year since.

Wright started the race as kind of a break from retirement. After 30 years of teaching physical education to seventh and eighth graders at South Tahoe Middle School, he mistakenly thought he would enjoy having time off to do whatever he wanted.

“I was retired for nine months and played basketball, skied, lifted weights, golfed … but there was no stress in my life and I have to have stress,” he said.

Since then, to promote the marathon, he’s set up a Web site and travels around the country every year to running expos. “It’s lots of personal contact,” he said. “These people know me.”

The entrance fees range from $25 to $90 depending on which race a person decides to enter. This year the event offered a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, wheelchair marathon, a relay marathon and a 26.2-mile marathon. A lot of the money collected pays for the 120 portable toilets and numerous aid stations the race requires. Wright said the event never makes a profit, but that he does get paid for the year-round work he puts into organizing the event.

This year a promoter of race said she expected the event to draw 7,500 people to South Shore, a number that seems realistic considering the hundreds of cars that lined Emerald Bay Road Sunday morning.

Carol Swart and her husband Ron, 61, made the nine-hour drive from Orange, Calif., to South Shore on Friday. She said Ron wanted a day-and-half to acclimate to the high elevation. “This is his first marathon. He’s only been training for six months,” she said. “The farthest he’s gone is 21 miles. When we came up Friday and drove the course he wasn’t sure he made the right decision.”

Ron Swart’s son and daughter flew in to support their father during the marathon.

“He’s just getting into this and he’s taking on this big feat,” Carol said. “But he’ll make it whether he runs or walks in.” The results of the marathon will be posted at

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