Organizers, running community hopeful as Milwaukee Marathon returns with half-marathon, 5K races

NOW: Organizers, running community hopeful as Milwaukee Marathon returns with half-marathon, 5K races

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- About 1,000 runners are expected to participate in the Milwaukee Marathon half-marathon and 5K events on Sunday, March 26, a return for an event with a rocky history.

"We're so excited for the Milwaukee Marathon to officially return to Milwaukee and the Deer District," Senior VP of Bucks Ventures & Development Michael Belot said at a news conference in front of Fiserv Forum Friday, March 24.

Both the 5K and half-marathon events will start at 7 a.m., a change after organizers said they were monitoring the oncoming storm for the area this weekend. The start time of the 5K race was moved from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. to ensure runners have full daylight for their event.

The Milwaukee Marathon is produced by Ventures Endurance, part of Gannett's USA Today Newtork Ventures and presented by the Milwaukee Bucks. The groups took over the event in 2018 and launched its current version of the race in 2019 with a start/finish at Fiserv Forum and Deer District.

But in a sport where consistency and endurance are hallmarks, the Milwaukee Marathon has had a rocky history.

The event was run by a different organization prior to 2019. In 2016, the marathon course was too long. The following year it was too short. Both instances created headaches for runners who hoped to use the event to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which uses times from sanctioned races to determine if runners can enter.

The pandemic also halted momentum created by the successful running of the 2019 event which featured a half-marathon and full marathon.

In 2022, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon -- a separate event run by a different organization -- was canceled due to permit issues with the city. The Lakefront Marathon is a fall event that has been around for several decades.

Now, organizers hope the return of an in-person event this year can revive the race.

"I think that 2023, our goal is one: make the event happen, and 2: successfully put it on operationally a safe event to re-prove to the city that the company, Ventures Endurance-Milwaukee Marathon can make that happen," Chip Hazewski, senior road races director for USA Today Network Ventures, said at the news conference.

Members of the running community are cautiously optimistic as well.

"It was too long one year, it was too short one year, I ran both those years and I was frustrated," Patrick Bieser told CBS 58 of the Milwaukee Marathon.

Bieser is the organizer of The Milwaukee Running Group. He said the city has a passionate running culture. That was exemplified when the Lakefront Marathon was canceled in 2022 and he and others organized the Not Lakefront Marathon.

"We pulled it off with almost 1,200 people," Bieser said. "It wasn't as big as it would've been had it been the Lakefront Marathon run by the Badgerland Striders but we were able to pull something off and made a lot of people happy."

Now he hopes the Milwaukee Marathon can soon be a reliable race to showcase the city's neighborhoods, cultures and people.

"Having a big signature race in your hometown is something we want to feel proud about," Bieser said.

More information, including about the course, can be found HERE

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