Written by David Shivers
In spite of its relatively brief history, the Albany Marathon has become a signature event for the community, drawing thousands of visitors who have a significant economic impact.
Paula Bacon, executive director of the Albany-Dougherty County Medical Society, told the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on January 30 that “Albany offers a perfect opportunity for a deeply Southern experience.”
The race course takes runners “all over the community,” offering various views of the city. Bacon said race organizers “get great feedback” from entrants, which include professional runners building points to qualify for other nationally-known races like the iconic Boston Marathon. The Albany Marathon is a U.S.A. Track and Field certified event.
Bacon said the marathon, now in its sixth year, also brings to the forefront the benefits of exercise, which helps fight cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
“It helps get people to recognize that exercise is so incredibly important” to maintaining good health, Bacon added.
Albany cancer specialist Dr. Jose Tongol, who has championed the marathon from the beginning, has said previously, “My mission here is physical fitness – to prevent a lot of problems like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and heart attacks. Obesity is the number one cause of deaths in the U.S. We need to fight that problem.”
The race was formerly known as the Snickers Energy Bar Marathon and Half-Marathon. Although the official name has changed, Snickers is still involved as a race sponsor, said Bacon.
The total economic benefit to the community of the annual race and accompanying events (turtle race and family entertainment at Flint Riverquarium, the “thrilling to watch” SB&T bike race, downtown Mardi Gras, and so on known as the “Rock, Roll, and Run Weekend,” has been estimated at $2.6 million. The marathon also benefits Willson Hospice House; over five years, that organization has received some $95,000 in funds.
Key to the marathon’s success are the people who make it happen before and during the race. Volunteers “are the heart and soul of any event,” Bacon emphasized. Among the benefits of volunteering, she pointed out, are earning an exclusive marathon volunteer t-shirt, free admission to the Mardi Gras festival (from 12 noon to midnight), a front-row seat to Albany’s signature event, meeting great people with the same enthusiasm for Albany, getting the great feeling you get when you help others, and plenty of great memories.
Among the volunteer assignments available are pre-expo (stuffing goodie bags), working the Expo on March 6, manning one of the 18 water stations, working as a road marshal or at the finish line, driving sweep vehicles (to pick up runners who don’t finish the race), blankets, distributing medals after the race, working on the finish line cleanup crew, and assisting during the awards ceremony.
This year’s race events – the marathon, half-marathon, and bike race – will take place on March 3. The deadline for volunteering is February 10. For information call 317-4760 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Bacon describes the personal and economic benefits of the annual Albany Marathon and Half Marathon to Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County members.