Thu, Sept. 19

Sedona Marathon no more; event re-branded as RunSedona

The Sedona Marathon has re-branded itself as RunSedona and has discontinued the full marathon. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

The Sedona Marathon has re-branded itself as RunSedona and has discontinued the full marathon. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Now in its 14th year, the Sedona Marathon has crossed a symbolic finish line and dropped its marathon race and re-emerged under a new name: RunSedona.

The popular race, which runs through the Red Rocks and attracts thousands of runners from all over the world, will eliminate the full marathon distance (26.2 miles) from its RunSedona events on Feb. 2, but will continue with the more popular half-marathon, 10K and 5K.

Runner participation for the longer-marathon has been dwindling, along with marathons nationwide, explained Jeffery Frost, race director.

“Across the country marathon races are not trending positively in participation,” Frost pointed out. “People’s commitment to train for a marathon has really decreased over the years.”

When the Sedona Marathon started 14 years ago, there were 300-plus marathoners in the race, Frost said. Last year, the marathon had about 150 runners.

“And it (the marathon) impacts Sedona greatly,” he continued referring to the residents who live on nearby streets with “closures and traffic control.”

Frost said it is not a permanent decision and the marathon could be brought back if it became popular again.

When the Sedona Marathon first started, it had approximately 700 runners, Frost said. “Now we are up to about 3,500 runners.”

That includes almost 2,000 runners in the half-marathon, which is the most popular event.

Frost said it made more sense to focus the resources on the three most popular events, the half-marathon, 10K (700-800 runners) and 5K (700-800 runners).

There was definitely a concern about dropping the marathon race because of the brand identity associated with the “Sedona Marathon,” Frost said.

“In 2018, the event generated $3.3 million in direct spending by 3,000 participants and 7,000 spectators,” according to its website.

In reality, “most of our participants” weren’t marathoners, he pointed out.

In fact, Frost said their registrations are tracking ahead of last year and this year could be the most runners the event has ever had.

A lot of serious Flagstaff runners entered the marathon, who liked the mountain/hilly type run, Frost said.

However, if a runner is looking to qualify for a big marathon like Boston or New York, they would tend to go to a flat course where they can record their best time, he said.

Because of Sedona’s hills and altitude, it was never was a target for elite runners, he said. The fact that the marathon was half on pavement and half on gravel road discouraged many runners. Many people don’t like running on gravel roads, he added. That limited the growth of the event.

It also didn’t help that they had to cancel the marathon three years ago because a freak snowstorm closed the Forest Service roads. “We never recovered after that.”

The marathon numbers dropped significantly after that, Frost continued. People’s memories are long.

Frost pointed out that there will be many families in the 5K, some even with strollers, and 30 different exhibitors and vendors on race day. There will also be massages and a beer garden. It’s a much larger event than just a race, he said.

It’s turned into both a “running event and a community event,” Frost said.

The event is owned by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the event is about driving “sustainable tourism,” he said.

Frost said this refers to doing an event from a sustainability perspective; having sustainable ideas like using recyclable cups or not using individual-use water bottles.

Jennifer Wesselhoff, president and CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, said she did not think the name-change will affect the event.  “If anything, I think the name change provides a clearer message of the actual available distances,” she said in an email.

“The Sedona Marathon name may have scared people away who were only interested in a half or 10K.  We will certainly hold on to the name and the brand of Sedona Marathon in case we ever decide to bring it back,” she said. 

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