By Steve Zoski, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 22, 2012
This June, the first-ever Ann Arbor marathon will join the list of unique events to take place in town after the Ann Arbor City Council finalized plans for the marathon at their meeting last night.
The Ann Arbor Marathon will take place on Sunday, June 17 and money raised will benefit the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation and Champions for Charity, the organization that supports the annual Big House Big Heart 5k, 10k and 1 mile race. Additional charities are invited to register race participants as an independent fund-raising opportunity. At the meeting, Council unanimously passed a resolution to close the streets on the race’s route.
Marathon organizer Michael Highfield, founder of Champions for Charity said Council’s approval was the final step before public event announcements could be made.
Highfield said the approval means updated details about the marathon course will be released online sometime today.
“We waited (to release an updated course) until city council approval because we tweaked the course and the starting time,” Highfield said.
Highfield, an avid runner, developed the idea for the marathon after receiving a call from his friend Ellie Serras, a leader of the Main Street Area Association, who thought Ann Arbor was fit for a marathon because of its status as a health-conscious community.
The marathon has a registration limit of 2,500 participants, while a corresponding half-marathon has a cap of 5,000 runners. About 751 people from 26 different states have already registered for the race.
Highfield said he worked with the city to develop a course incorporating some of Ann Arbor’s notable landmarks including Michigan Stadium, Burton Tower, the Law Quadrangle, Yost Ice Arena, the Michigan Union and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.
Wendy Correll, executive director of Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, said the event will help the organization reach its annual fund-raising goal of $1 million.
“This is the third year we’re having a campaign to raise $1 million for Ann Arbor Public Schools,” Correll said. “I think with the funding that will come with the marathon we'll hit that $1 million mark.”
Correll said her organization benefits educational programs in Ann Arbor schools that are being cut due to financial difficulties.
“In order to keep the AP classes…to provide adequate academic support for struggling students, you’ve got to find funding somewhere because it’s disappearing.”
Correll said her foundation would use funds raised to ensure students at all Ann Arbor public schools have equal opportunities.
“We can’t fix inequity, but we won’t perpetuate it,” Correll said, “If there’s a good program for third-graders, every third-grader in our district is going to get it.”
Correll said Council’s compliance with the city’s marathon requirements will help Ann Arbor’s public schools.
“In many cities across the country, the cities are giving money to schools for education programs. That doesn’t happen here, the economy doesn't allow it, so this is one way they can support education without having to fork over cash,” Correll said.
She added that the event will benefit Ann Arbor businesses as well.
“Right off the bat it was clear, the Convention and Visitors Bureau had to buy into this and like it because if we have people coming from 26 different states, they are going to stay somewhere,” Correll said.
Correll said she is hopeful the event will becomes an annual summer tradition in Ann Arbor.
“There will come a point five or six years down the road where this will be a draw like the Art Fair,” she said.
Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) said Council was completely supportive of the event.
“They’ve been working on this for months.” Lumm said. “It is a huge deal, as a non-runner I didn't appreciate everything that goes into this...Meeting with all these organizations, churches – this marathon will be on a Sunday, emergency routes, I’m really impressed with all the work they’ve done.”
Christy Perros, an Educational Foundation board member, spoke before Council to tell them the Ann Arbor marathon would be her first.
Michael Benson, president of Rackham Student Government, said he will make sure University graduate students lend a helping hand with the race.
“Graduate students will definitely be here June 17 and we can definitely get a nice crowd.”