LAKE PLACID - "Can you believe it's the eighth year already?"
Those are the words Brad Konkler uttered this week while looking forward to Sunday's running of the Lake Placid Marathon.
The Lake Placid Marathon got off to a strong start its first year with 950 competitors, and since then, the field has grown to an ideal size of about 2,000 participants annually. Starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, a mass start wave of runners heading down Main Street in the Olympic Village will signal that the eighth Lake Placid Marathon has begun.
Runners take over Main Street in Lake Placid shortly after the start of last year’s Lake Placid Marathon and Half Marathon.
(Lake Placid News file photo — Lou Reuter)
Konkler and his good friend Jeff Edwards are the co-owners and co-directors of the Lake Placid Marathon. They initiated the idea of establishing the race here as an early-season event after they both competed in the Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid.
"Jeff and I have seen a number of events come and go on this particular weekend, and our goal was to have a race that draws people into the village and the Adirondacks at this time of year," Konkler said. "Most of the races in the area take place late in the summer and in the fall. This weekend is a perfect fit for an early-season race. We are so thankful that Lake Placid is a great town with businesses and volunteers that really know how to host our guests.
"This is really a destination race," Konkler continued. "The participants who come here love Lake Placid, they are intrigued by Lake Placid and they want to see Lake Placid. We are confident that we put on a premier race, but that's just a part of the experience we want them to have."
This year, Konkler said 40 states from across the nation will be represented in the race. He added that over the years, all 50 states have seen runners competing in the marathon. In addition, five Canadian provinces will have runners hitting the pavement Sunday in the Olympic Village.
"It's truly a global event," Konkler said.
In following what Konkler described as a trend across the running world, approximately two-thirds of Sunday's participants will take on the event's half-marathon distance. The rest will tackle the full 26.2-mile trek.
"If you look at the running world, it's an aging population," Konkler said. "Most people can't devote the training time it takes to prepare for a full marathon. Personally, I think the half-marathon is really underrated. 13.1 miles is still a long way to go."
Each year, the Lake Placid Marathon has been highlighted by numerous personal stories, including that of Columbus, Ohio's Chuck Engle, who participated in the second running of the event and still holds the full-distance course record finish time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 39 seconds. Engle's goal was to run 52 marathons - one each week - in a one-year span as a fundraiser. Despite establishing what is still the time to beat, an injury prevented Engle from achieving his goal that year.
On Sunday, Julie Weiss, another distance specialist, will attempt to stay on track in her objective of accomplishing the year-long journey that Engle had hoped to complete when she looks to finish her ninth marathon race in as many weeks. Known as the "Marathon Goddess," the Santa Monica endurance athlete competed in her first marathon in 2008 and has run 23 more before setting sights on her goal earlier this year. In her pursuit, sh hopes to raise $1 million dollars to combat pancreatic cancer, the disease that claimed the life of her father in November 2010. Weiss has already reached the $100,000 mark in her quest.
A well-known fundraising group in the running world, Team in Training, will also send dozens of athletes to Lake Placid in their battle against cancer. Over the past few years, the organization's Albany chapter has annually raised between $500,000 and $1 million during Lake Placid's race alone.
Quebec's Sebastian Roulier has won the past three men's marathons here and is returning to seek a fourth straight overall title. After winning the women's crown a year ago in her first appearance in the race, New York City's Arien O'Connell is also expected to be back defending her women's full-distance title.
Another inspiring story is that of Kevin Counihan of Beverly, Mass. The 50-year-old is a mobility impaired runner who lost part of his right foot in an accident years ago and has competed in 140 marathons, including all seven in Lake Placid. The world record marathon record holder is returning to run in the Lake Placid for the eighth year in a row.
Whether athletes are looking to raise money for charity, establish a personal-best finish time or just reach the finish line, Konkler said participating in the Lake Placid race is a big deal for most of the runners.
"Jeff and I both say that the Lake Placid Marathon is a way that runners can find their own personal Olympic gold," Konkler said.