JVG_210401_MARATHON

This photo of two runners was taken last March in Janesville, around the time the pandemic was declared, by Gazette photographer Anthony Wahl.

JANESVILLE

COVID-19 might have bestowed one gift upon Janesville: an annual marathon.

The Run the Rock footrace that might be the city’s first marathon is set for Saturday, April 10. Organizers say they hope to grow the event into an annual happening.

The April 10 date is significant. That’s the day the Milwaukee Marathon—with thousands of runners—was supposed to happen, but it was postponed to October out of COVID-19 concerns.

Many local runners had trained for months to run their first marathons in Milwaukee, said Jaysen Jorgensen of Velocity Multi-sport & Cycling, the event organizer.

“To reset marathon training to a different date is very difficult, so as soon as we heard the news, we decided to come up with a marathon/half marathon of our own,” Jorgensen said.

The only endurance races run in the past year have been “virtual” events, in which racers run on their own and register their times.

“People are itching to not be virtual. They want official, timed, organized events with people running the same courses,” Jorgensen said.

The April 10 event will be low-key: No registration fee, only 100 marathoners or half-marathoners allowed and a rolling start to avoid a crowd at the starting line—a COVID-19 precaution.

Runners will start after they check in that morning, marathoners starting at 7 a.m. and half-marathoners at 7:30.

Running bibs will contain magnetic chips that will allow runners to be tracked and clocked as they cross timing mats—a common practice.

The Gazette could not confirm this race is the first organized marathon in the city, but Jorgensen and others contacted could not recall another one.

The YMCA, Gazette and WCLO Radio sponsored a half marathon years ago, and that was the city’s premier running event, said former radio station manager and runner Mike O’Brien.

Jorgensen said about 45 local runners signed up when they were contacted about the race. Event registration was opened to the public Wednesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, 33 spots remained.

The starting and finish line will be in the parking lot of Velocity Multi-Sport & Cycling, 1327 N. Wright Road. All participants will receive finishing medals.Local running enthusiasts have chipped in to cover expenses, probably about $2,000, Jorgensen said.

Donations are still being accepted; see the “donate” button on the event website.

The city has approved the route and other details, Jorgensen said. Runners will head north on Wright Road to Rotamer Road and then south to Rockport Road near Monterey Park, avoiding stoplights. Volunteers will be stationed at crossings to keep an eye on traffic and to make sure runners follow the rules.

City Recreation Director Shelley Slapak said the route is mostly on east-side bike trails. No roads will be closed.

Runners will run along the sides of streets when they must; not on sidewalks.

The city required coronavirus safety measures such as distancing, face masks at check-in and for volunteers, making sure runners understand they must stay home if they have symptoms, etc., Slapak said.

Slapak noted Velocity helped the Boys & Girls Club with last month’s Shamrock Shuffle 5-kilometer run, which she called very successful.

“I’m encouraged that this could be an annual marathon in Janesville, and after COVID, the numbers could increase,” Slapak said. “It’s a great thing to bring people into our community.”

“This year, it’s really just designed to be fun and to work out the kinks,” Jorgensen said.

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