April 25, 2013 — Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon was one of the first marathons to take place after the Boston Marathon Tragedy that occurred April 15. The Blue Ridge Marathon took place Saturday, April 20 and had 1,700 participants, and was the first year that Foot Levelers was the title sponsor of the event.
“The Blue Ridge Marathon ushered in a new era when we partnered with Foot Levelers. Their reach and expertise are just two of the many factors that led to a 76.9 percent increase in runners in 2013. They opened doors that we couldn’t,” said Pete Eshelman, chairman of the marathon. “During our first three years we saw a steady growth of about 30 percent each year, but this year our numbers jumped 76.9 percent. Our new partnership with Foot Levelers is definitely one of the key reasons.”
To help attract more runners to the marathon, Foot Levelers invited legendary runners — Bart Yasso, chief running officer at Runner’s World; Bill Rodgers, record holder for the Boston Marathon; and Frank Shorter, Olympic Gold Medalist in 1972 in the Marathon event. Foot Levelers came up with a contest where two winners would get to run on a five-person relay team with these running legends. The winners were Kelly Hollinger of Florida and Keith Barton of Utah.
The Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon also became more compelling than usual in the wake of the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon. Several last-minute registrants signed up to do the marathon in honor of Boston. Race officials and Foot Levelers wore blue and yellow ribbons and made stickers and bracelets available to runners to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. A Boston city flag hung under the start line arch. As participants ran under the arch, many reached up and touched the flag.
Eshelman commented, “Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, America’s Toughest Road Marathon, took on a new role last weekend. It attracted an even-larger number of runners from around the nation and four countries to celebrate our region’s great outdoors; but in light of the events in Boston, the race symbolized the freedoms we enjoy and the unity of our nation in a time of tragedy. In the days leading up to our run, we saw a surge in people wanting to show their support of Boston by volunteering. We even had 15 people switch from the half marathon to the full marathon two days before our event — they wanted to honor Boston by running the full marathon (even though they hadn’t fully prepared for it).”
“We are proud to be the title sponsor of such a great event like the Blue Ridge Marathon,” said Hilary Kelley, public relations manager of Foot Levelers. “However, the sense of community and solidarity in Roanoke and among the running community we were a part of this past weekend makes us honored to be partnered with the Blue Ridge Marathon and help host an event that makes such a positive impact. We are already looking forward to next year and supporting every step these runners take to conquer America’s Toughest Road Marathon.”
Source: Foot Levelers, footlevelers.com