Runners invade Sandbox: Races set in New Richmond
Where do you go to run a marathon in Wisconsin in the dead of winter? You move inside.
That's where running enthusiasts will be this weekend as the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce hosts its first ever Sandbox Indoor Trail Marathon this weekend.
According to Chamber Executive Director Russ Korpela, about 400 runners have pre-registered to participate in one of several races planned during the weekend.
"That's a little less than we expected," Korpela admitted. "We were hoping for in the 500 to 600 range. But the good news is that this allows us to break even, which is always important for a first-time event. I feel really good about it."
Even with the lower-than-expected numbers, Korpela said the event promises to have an significant impact on the local economy. Many of the local motels report stronger occupancy rates this weekend, compared to an average weekend in February.
"It would appear that our hotels are having a better weekend than they normally would have," he said.
Local restaurants also hope to capitalize on the increased traffic generated by the races, Korpela said.
While most of the weekend runners are from Wisconsin or Minnesota, Korpela said a total of 13 states will be represented at the Sandbox Arena event.
"It's a good start for our first year," Korpela said, noting that runners from as far away as Georgia, Texas, Montana and New Hampshire are scheduled to participate. "It's a nice mix of runners."
Because the event is at breaking even, Korpela said plans are already underway for the 2012 version of the marathon, and he remains optimistic that the event will survive for years to come.
"If we put on a real, high-quality event, the word of mouth from the runners will help the race grow in the future," he said.
Race action begins at 8 a.m. Saturday with a half marathon, with a three-hour time limit.
At noon Saturday, a 5K will be run. A marathon relay will be run at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The main marathon event will kick off at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, with a six-hour time limit. Then a 10K run is planned for 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Runners will complete a certain number of laps depending on the length of each scheduled event. Marathoners will run more than 100 laps, while 5K participants will finish about 13 laps. Laps will be counted via a timing chip carried by each runner.
"There will be music and announcements going on, so it should be pretty entertaining," Korpela said.
Race fans can show up at Sandbox Arena (adjacent to the Cedar Lake Speedway in the Town of Star Prairie) during any of the races to watch the action. People can watch from the heated comfort of the lobby, where a variety of concessions will be available. They can also watch the action from designated locations around the track.
"Come out for 15 minutes or an hour -- or spend all day with us," he said.
As a warning, Korpela said the temperature inside the arena will be about 45 degrees, so spectators should dress appropriately.
"From a running standpoint, 45 degrees is perfect conditions," he noted.
Korpela said the owners of the Sandbox Arena have been very accommodating as plans for the weekend have progressed.
He also noted that a number of volunteers have signed up to help make sure the races run smoothly.
"We still need about 25 more people to help out," Korpela added. "If you can help, give the Chamber a call."
Runners from the area who haven't pre-registered are also invited to show up and compete. Korpela said last-minute registrations will be allowed this weekend and a higher participation fee will not be charged. Runners are charged $20 per person for the 5K or 10K; more for the longer races.
"We encourage people to come out, register and be part of the event," he said.
For more information or to register online, visit www.sandboxindoormarathon.com. The Sandbox Arena is a 100,000-square-foot heated indoor motocross facility that will be converted for the weekend races. The specialized dirt inside the arena is compactable and creates a very firm surface.