OGDEN — As uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains, organizers of the Ogden Marathon say Junction City’s largest single-day event will take place virtually in 2021.
Officials with the GOAL Foundation announced Tuesday that registration for the 2021 marathon is now open, but with the all important caveat that next year’s event won’t be held at its familiar central location in Weber County.
“Due to the size of our event and the uncertainty of what the environment will be in May, we’ve decided to take this time to fully develop and create a virtual experience unlike any other,” said Eric Bauman, executive director of GOAL, which is an acronym for Get Out And Live! “The safety of our participants, volunteers and everyone involved in our event is our top priority.”
The 2020 marathon, which was set to be the 20th running of Northern Utah’s most popular race, was postponed in March and rescheduled for September. But in June, as Weber County and Utah cases of the novel coronavirus climbed, officials ultimately decided to cancel the event.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell was one of the architects of the GOAL Foundation and said the marathon is the city’s biggest annual event, the centerpiece of Ogden’s outdoor recreation scene and is a significant stimulator of the local economy.
The 2019 marathon accounted for an estimated direct economic impact of $1.24 million, according to a report from the GOAL Foundation. Those dollars were direct transactions made in Ogden from racers and spectators who came in from outside the community. The money is generated mostly from things like hotel stays, restaurant visits, gas, groceries, etc.
Ogden City owns the marathon but contracts with the GOAL Foundation to produce it. The foundation was created to capitalize on the momentum of the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City. America First Credit Union is now the chief sponsor of the marathon, a title held for the past 19 years by Zions Bank.
“The Ogden Marathon’s impact and reach are far broader than just a race,” Bauman said. “It truly makes a difference and has a positive impact on the lives of our athletes, our volunteers, our spectators and our community. It is not only a motivator and opportunity to train and get fit, but it is an opportunity to build a community, build families and spend time with friends.”
The 2021 virtual race will include a full and half Marathon, relay, 5K and Kids K. Racers will be able to run their respective distances in their own hometowns between May 9-16. Each participant will receive a custom 20th anniversary shirt and medal as well as other items that will be mailed to their doorstep.
Last year, Ogden’s marathon included nearly 6,000 runners and the race regularly attracts about 10,000 spectators. When held in its traditional format, the race starts in the Upper Ogden Valley at an elevation of 5,400 feet, with runners chugging down S.R. 39, next to the South Fork of the Ogden River. The final half of the race weaves around Pineview Reservoir and drops into the Ogden Canyon, with the river serving again as a backdrop. After the canyon, runners hit the Ogden River Parkway, with the course ending downtown on Historic 25th Street.
The marathon is USA Track & Field certified and a Boston Marathon qualifier.
To register for the 2021 marathon, go to ogdenmarathon.com.