Stillwater Marathon

Date: May 24

Route: Map is on Page B8.

Move over, Grandma's.

The annual June marathon in Duluth is facing competition from the metro area, where marathons hope to debut in Minneapolis and Stillwater in May 2009.

Despite the idea that Minnesota is now expected to be home to four marathons within a month of each another, race organizers aren't flinching about the crowded field.

"There are so many runners out there, I don't think this will matter," said John Larson, executive director of Team Ortho Foundation, which is organizing the Minneapolis Marathon. "Each race has unique features, whether it's different pasta parties or the unique flavor of the city."

Organizers of the 26.2-mile Minneapolis race, set for May 31, are working out details with Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board officials to get a permit. Organizers hope to attract a total of 4,000 runners to the marathon, half marathon, a 5K run and a 5K run with dogs.

In Stillwater, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize St. Croix Events Inc. to conduct the first Stillwater Marathon on May 24. Organizers there also plan to offer a 20-mile race, a half marathon and a 12K run. The total number of participants would be capped at 5,750 runners.

The Stillwater race is set for the same day as the Med-City Marathon in Rochester.

The Team Ortho and Stillwater marathons will make the metro area home to three such races, joining the annual fall Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, which winds through Minneapolis and St. Paul.

"In this world of putting road races on, they're all good," said Scott Keenan, Grandma's Marathon executive director.

The Stillwater course will take runners through some of the most stunning vistas in the region, including the St. Croix River Valley.

The idea initially encountered resistance from some downtown businesses and city leaders who worried that the race would create parking problems and traffic tie-ups. But after local business leaders met with St. Croix Events Inc. president Dave Eckberg, the Greater Stillwater Area Chamber of Commerce is now backing the marathon, said Jennifer Severson, the chamber's executive director. The marathon also was endorsed by the Stillwater-Oak Park Heights Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Marathon will become part of Team Ortho's race series, which begins Jan. 1 with the Polar Dash and ends in October with the Monster Dash.

The Team Ortho Foundation formed in 2004 to get people active, Larson said. Two of the founders are orthopedic surgeons. Last year, its June 1 race included a half marathon, 10-mile run, 5K and 5K9. For 2009, the 10-miler is dropped and the marathon is on.

Larson said his group began planning the Minneapolis Marathon, which will include a 6-mile loop downtown and then run along West River Road to Fort Snelling and back downtown, long before it knew about Stillwater's plans.

But he's not worried either will cut into the other's field of runners. "They're completely different venues," he said.

Keenan said he isn't worried his Duluth races will be hurt by the competition.

"We're not afraid of any competition,'' he said, noting his race is the 11th largest of 350 U.S. marathons. "I think we're in the top 10 in quality."

True, Twin Cities runners must book a hotel or find another place to stay if they run Grandma's rather than a local race like Stillwater, Keenan said. But Grandma's is a "destination" marathon that attracts runners with its festival-like weekend, he said.

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