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With Venues Like Football and Baseball Stadiums, Marathons are Being Reimagined

23 Aug, 2018


This article originally published by Running USA. To learn more, click here.

Already well known for producing great races in iconic places, DMSE Sports is setting up to hit a home run – or maybe score a touchdown – with its latest expansion effort in the endurance space.

What started as a quirky idea by the company’s namesake and founder, Dave McGillivray, is now an effort to create a nationwide series of marathons inside the country’s Major League Baseball ballparks and potentially National Football League stadiums as well.

You could say it all started with Dave’s wish to play second base for the Red Sox as a kid.

“That didn’t happen, so I figured the next best thing would be to run around the park instead of playing in the park,” the legendary race director told Running USA last week. “Before last fall I had the chance to run into Fenway Park five or six times, usually while finishing up milestone efforts like my run across America. But I always had this vision that it would be kind of cool to someday put on a race that finished in Fenway, or even better yet was conducted entirely inside the ballpark.”

An initial effort to pitch the idea to Red Sox officials didn’t make first base. But Dave, a lifelong baseball fan, knew one of the secrets to the game is patience and persistence. A few years passed, and U.S. running events started to vastly broaden their scope, format and locations.

“Along comes the Spartan Races, all these other unique endurance experiences, and I think they started seeing that there are people out there that like to be challenged in adventurous or unusual ways. So I approached them again.”

This time, the idea got traction. The only concern was whether it would be tough to find 50 or so people who wanted to run 26.2 miles – roughly 113 laps – around the exterior of the Fenway Park field. (Runners have to stay off the grass to protect it.)

Demand turned out to be a non-issue. Just by putting the call for runners on his personal Facebook page, Dave had 30 seriously interested candidates within a few days. There was just one catch – they would have to raise $5,000 each to contribute to the Red Sox’ charitable foundation.

“We raised $320,000 with 50 people running around in circles,” said Dave, exceeding the anticipated total by $70,000. The second annual Fenway Park Marathon will take place August 24, with a field of 75 runners. You can learn more here.

Michael Wardian, ultrarunner and marathoner, won the inaugural Fenway marathon. He isn’t a baseball fan, but was still captivated by the race’s location.

“Today was really cool, just to be in Fenway and know how much history is there,” Wardian told Boston media afterwards. “Even if you don’t love the sport, you got to love going to Fenway, just because of that atmosphere and the uniqueness of the environment.”

With the Fenway event a total home run, the DMSE team started talking to others about participating at their venues. Gillette Stadium was first in line – they already host Finish at the 50, a run the day before the Fourth of July holiday that concludes at the field’s 50 yard line. Keeping the runners in the stadium for the entirety of the event is actually easier than most road marathons, with fewer water stations, bathrooms, road closures and volunteers to deal with.

The inaugural Gillette Stadium Marathon will take place on Friday, Sept. 28. As at Fenway, each participant must raise $5,000. One surprising difference: the number of laps. You might think that a football field would make for a longer distance around the warning track, but in fact the number of laps at Gillette is two more than Fenway, 118 circuits to complete a marathon.

Later this fall, the stadium series will head to Houston for the inaugural Minute Maid Park Marathon at the Astros’ home field. The race will be held Nov. 18 to account for hot temperatures in Houston for most of the fall. Participants there must raise $4,000 to participate and will benefit the Astros Foundation as well as the Houston Marathon Foundation. Field size is capped at 75.

For diehard baseball and football fans, fundraising to get on the field for up to six hours is a no-brainer.

“From the sounds of some of the responses, they’d be willing to raise as much money as we ask them to just to get on the field,” said Aaron Nemzer, Director of Events for DMSE.

With interest in the events so high, Dave and his team are thinking big.

“We don’t want to take on too much too soon, but we want to eventually approach every team, football and baseball, over the course of the next 3-5 years and see what we come up with in terms of a national series,” Dave said.

“My vision for both sports would be if we could have 30 races go on during the season, and then the winners of those 30 races, male and female, could come together in the fall and run a championship race, perhaps a day before the World Series or the Super Bowl.”

Interested in being part of the dream and bringing a DMSE Stadium Series race to your home town? Contact Aaron at aaron@dmsesports.com for more information.

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