When Todd Oliver met with Carmel Mayor James Brainard in 2010, to propose an event that Oliver knew would cause street closures and congestion, he got the green light despite the challenges. Why? The Carmel Marathon was going to be more than just another weekend race; it would become part of Hamilton County's economic development arsenal attracting out-of-towners, who'd do more than race through city streets.
The Carmel Marathon - April 12 is billed as a "not-to-be-missed" event where the course is fast, and there's lots to see and do throughout the weekend. In addition to the marathon, there's a half marathon, an 8K, Marathon Relay and already sold-out Expo. The event quickly gained traction. Every hotel block is filled, and lots of runners want early arrivals on Thursday and late departures on Tuesday to spend more time in the area.
Runners World magazine named the marathon the featured run for April, and it's become the 132nd largest marathon in the U.S. Oliver, Carmel Marathon's Race Director, is hopeful the race will break the top 100 by 2016, maybe sooner. Not bad for a newcomer to an increasingly crowded field - there are more than 1,000 marathons annually across the country.
Oliver credits the races popularity to several factors, including the course itself, which begins and ends at the Carmel City Center, and winds through streets of downtown Carmel, where runners are greeted to live music at various locations.
"It's another example of how high-caliber sports events can help people discover Hamilton County," said William Knox, director of Hamilton County Sports Authority. "People are traveling to Hamilton County from Montreal, Germany, Japan and throughout the country for this event, and we're finding they want to extend their time here." Knox said.
Nearly 20 percent of race participants will be here from Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee.
The other March Madness - Grand Park
Grand Park, the mega competitive sports center in Westfield, doesn't officially open until June, but from the activity on the fields in March, you'd think otherwise. In one of the soft opening weekends, Grand Park hosted the first ACC baseball series (Notre Dame versus Virginia Tech) ever to be played in Indiana. Plus, more than 80 teams - including players from as far as Texas and Canada - braved cold weather for Westfield Select Soccer Showcase tournaments on two other weekends in March. And, this is before the grand opening.
"It really was a "Mad March" at Grand Park, and there wasn't a single basketball game involved," said William Knox, director of the Hamilton County Sports Authority. "We're already hearing great reviews."
Grand Park, in addition to other high-caliber sports facilities throughout Hamilton County, will help establish the community as one of the nations premiere youth sports destinations.
While many of the 26 diamonds and 31 fields were busy over the early weekends, so were hotels and restaurants. The 400-acre sports campus is expected to be an economic boost for Hamilton County as an average visitor will spend about $137 a day locally.
Two Air Force bases plan shadow Carmel Marathons
Air Force bases in Hawaii and South Carolina will host Carmel Marathon shadow races on April 12, wearing the official race day T-shirts. It started in 2013, when a Carmel native serving in Kuwait asked Carmel Marathon Race Director Todd Oliver if the soldiers could do a shadow race there. Oliver eagerly agreed, sending over a package of race T-shirts and medals.
Two soldiers who participated in the 2013 race contacted Oliver explaining their deployments were over, but they wanted to orchestrate races at their respective Air Force bases. Oliver expects about 30 military personnel to participate, and they'll proudly wear their Carmel Marathon race shirts and raise money for a nonprofit veteran's organization, Red, White & Blue.