It's been almost 2,500 years since a Greek soldier and herald ran from Marathon, Greece to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (www.wikipedia.com). Rumor has it that in 490 B.C., Pheidippides ran 21.4 miles after having already run 150 miles in two days, uttered the news of triumph and then collapsed and died. Centuries later, the marathon race debuted as an Olympic event, and it's been a grueling, challenging pursuit for runners ever since.
In 2002, Boise runners Jeff and Ruth Ulmer wanted to start a 5k (3.1 miles) race for their friends. The pair started planning, but decided that instead of adding another short race to the swarm of 5ks already hosted in Boise, it would be cooler to do a full-length marathon. Thus came the City of Trees (CoT) Marathon and Half Marathon, named because, well, that's Boise's moniker. "It's in the fall, the trees are all changing colors," says Race Director Jeff Ulmer, who now produces the race on his own. "We run by eleven parks and then up on Crescent Rim where you can see all the trees."
Ulmer totally knows what he's doing. In addition to the CoT, which is in its fifth year, he also organizes the Fit for Life Half Marathon, the Mountain Madness Half Marathon, the Dry Creek Half Marathon, Tamarack 10k, Kuna Days 5k and School Days Fun Run in Hidden Springs.
This year more than 800 runners have signed up for the CoT races--about 45 percent of them are doing the full marathon that starts and finishes at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel downtown. Don't expect to do a lot of downtown driving Sunday because those 800 runners will maneuver the courses that sweep through historic neighborhoods on Warm Springs Avenue and Harrison Boulevard then weave around the Train Depot and the Capitol building.
"I'm excited to bring this event to the community I support," says Ulmer. "It is a good race; it is flat and fast and beautiful."
While beautiful is important if you're stomping over 26 miles, fast might be even more important. The race is actually USA Track and Field (USATF) certified and sanctioned, meaning that many runners who need to qualify for the Boston Marathon can use their times from CoT. Special note: Marathoners' CoT times can be used for either Boston 2007 or 2008.
"That's the thing about marathons: They are locally attended but you get people from all over," says Ulmer. "No one is going to fly to Boise for a 10k but for this we've got people from 34 states and three foreign countries."
And this race, like most big-deal races, is more than just the run. On the Saturday before the marathon, the public is welcome to a sports and fitness expo with seminars on such topics as motivation and how to avoid marathon mistakes, a course tour and a pasta buffet. That's all happening from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Owyhee Plaza.
So even if you're not up for the run, maybe you don't even own a pair of sneakers yet, you can still attend to learn about planning for next year or you can volunteer--the CoT requires hundreds of traffic volunteers and water station attendants, and the organizers are still desperately short staffed.
Nov. 5, the City of Trees marathon starts at 8 a.m. and costs $65. The half marathon starts at 9 a.m. and costs $40. All activities and start and finish lines are at the Owyhee Plaza, 1109 Main St.