Mentoring Marathon to become Tri-Cities' first 26.2-mile race

Tony Casey • Feb 28, 2014 at 10:51 AM

For years, the Tri-Cities area has provided a wealth of many different themes, causes and distances for road races, all except for one — the 26.2-mile, or marathon, distance.

On May 10 at 7 a.m., that’s going to change. Karen Hubbs, former race organizer of Johnson City’s Bluegrass Half Marathon, will be kicking off the start of a new adventure for this runner-friendly area.

The Mentoring Marathon, put on by Rise Up!, will start and finish at Winged Deer Park in north Johnson City and run up U.S. Highway 11E to the Bristol Motor Speedway, where participants will rev their engines around the track before coming back down to the park to complete the distance. A 5K, taking place in the park, and a marathon relay will also be available to those who aren’t yet ready to tackle the longest Olympic distance.

“As the years go on, I think this is something will grow,” Hubbs said. “It has that potential.”

With just more than two months to go before race day, Hubbs said the window of time isn’t ideal, but believes the cat has been out of the bag in regard to a full marathon taking place in the area for some time now, knowing that people have been preparing for the race.

She hopes it will provide the chance for many people to run their first marathons and looks to honor anyone doing so. Having been contacted already by local relay and running groups, there have even been a few registrations even before the race has officially been announced.

One unique aspect to the race will be a concept Hubbs is promoting to get nonprofit groups to sponsor miles along the open parts of the course. Each group, be it a church or a group of people, will have a designated mile where they can have a fuel station, watch for traffic and provide entertainment and support to passing runners. After the race, the runners will vote which of the miles was the best, and the top three will win cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250.

As is the case with Rise Up!, an organization that focuses on mentoring children all the way to receiving a college education, Hubbs said the team relay and teamwork will be the emphasis of the event. With their T-shirt sponsorship with Under Armour, she said the race swag will be impressive, too. More information will be announced at today’s 12:30 p.m. news conference at Bojangles, the race’s main sponsor, on West Mountcastle Drive.

The State of Franklin Track Club, the biggest running club in the area, will be timing the event. In the next few months, Hubbs said she’ll be working to get the course officially certified as a Boston Marathon-qualifying course.

Jon Reynolds, president of the track club, is equally as optimistic about a marathon finally coming out of the Tri-Cities.

“I think it’s going to be a brand new experience for local runners,” he said. “The fun is going to be along the way.”

Reynolds is excited the race is incorporating some of East Tennessee’s best characteristics — scenic country roads, enthusiasm from local supporters and a chance to run around Bristol Motor Speedway.

You can register for any of the races or relay through links on the Mentoring Marathon’s Facebook page and website (www.mentoringmarathon.com), as well as the State of Franklin Track Club at www.runtricities.org under the events calendar tab.

Correction: an earlier version of this story said the news conference would take place at the Bojangles location on West State of Franklin, when it will actually take place on West Mountcastle Drive.

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