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Is a marathon up Whiteface in our future?

November 13, 2014
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

Hundreds of runners could take on a steep-pitched marathon up, down and around Whiteface Mountain this summer if state officials approve.

The marathon does not have an official name yet, but it's loosely being called the "Whiteface SkyRun" or the "Whiteface Sky Marathon." A "sky run" is an extreme running event held on a mountain with certain requirements that need to be met, including a high amount of elevation gain and a direct path to the summit when possible.

Runners compete in a vertical climb up the mountain or a much longer marathon run around the mountain. Sky runs are known for their tough climbs and beautiful views.

The event, scheduled to be held on the weekend of June 27 and 28, 2015, in Wilmington, is still in the early stages of planning, said Ian Golden, the co-director of the marathon and owner of Red Newt Racing.

Golden and his partners had scouted much of the country for a place to hold a skyrun, finally settling on Whiteface because it was a tall mountain with great scenic views.

"It's a really ideal venue," Golden said. "It's higher than a lot of well-known West Coast resorts. It's not tough to achieve the needed vertical."

Whiteface Mountain is New York's fifth highest mountain with an elevation of 4,867 feet.

The marathon is expected to draw hundreds of athletes.

"If the event is very successful and grows, we could have upwards of 500 people (combined) for each of the two races," Golden said.

Michelle Preston, operations manager of the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau, said if the marathon brings in 500 people, it would be the second largest event in Wilmington.

"That weekend we don't have typically a lot of people in town," she said. "So that would be a large crowd for that time of year."

Preston said the largest event in Wilmington is Bike Fest, which begins in early June, and brings in around 700 to 800 visitors.


Not official

The Olympic Regional Development Authority, the state entity that runs Whiteface and other ski areas and Olympic venues, has not officially approved the marathon yet. ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin said the authority is working out details with the race organizers to finalize the race route.

The organizers had some challenges with their original course and had to make changes to it. Golden originally planned the vertical climb to end at the summit of the mountain, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation rejected the idea, he said.

"They have officially told me no," Golden said.

The DEC cited erosion as the reason for not allowing runners to climb to the summit, Golden said.

Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston, who has been working closely with the marathon organizers, also said DEC rejected the original course for that reason. Preston was frustrated by the decision.

The DEC could not immediately be reached for comment.


Moving forward

Golden said he had hoped the runners could go to the summit because of the amazing view, but he was not dismayed by the DEC's decision. He and the other marathon organizers plan to move forward with the race as altered.

Sky running usually has a laid-back group of people just seeking a good time, Golden said.

"The reasons people are out there is for the views and to have a beautiful day," Golden said. "It's really not about the win. It's about the community. It's about challenging yourself and having a great time out there."


The event

There are two courses set up for each day of competition.

A vertical climb up the mountain is planned for Saturday. The start line would be at the base lodge, and runners would finish somewhere near the top of the mountain. The course up the mountain, known as a vertical climb, is expected to be about 2.5 miles and more than 3,300 feet up the mountain.

On Sunday, the runners would take on a second course, beginning at the base of the gondola and traveling through the trail systems at Whiteface and Wilmington: first through the Flume trail system, then back to the gondola and then up the alpine loop on Whiteface.

The marathon resembles a figure-eight. The course would be around 13 miles with a total elevation gain of 9,000 feet.

For more information about the marathon, visit the organizer's website The website is in the process of being updated.



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