2019 Marathon by the Sea will be leaner and meaner, says organizer

The 2019 Marathon by the Sea in Saint John is a go and the 25th anniversary event will be leaner and meaner than ever, says the founder and executive director.

25th anniversary event will see several cost-cutting changes

This year's Marathon by the Sea saw a record number of participants at 1,658 and an estimated 1,500 spectators. (Facebook/Marathon by the Sea)

Next year's Marathon by the Sea in Saint John is a go, and the 25th anniversary event will be leaner and meaner than ever, says the founder and executive director.

Last month, Mike Doyle raised concerns about the marathon's future, given a lack of funding, a shortage of in-kind support and a dwindling volunteer base.

But after a successful race weekend Aug. 10-12, an outpouring of community support, reaffirmed commitments by the organizing committee members and numerous cost-cutting suggestions, including scaling back to two days, the 2019 date has been set as Aug. 10-11.

"Working together with our sponsors, municipal, provincial and federal governments along with the overwhelming support we received from our [Facebook] following, we expect 2019 to be the first of many success years to come," Doyle posted on the marathon's Facebook page on Wednesday.

"A collective sigh of relief!" wrote Trevor Funk. "Would have been a huge loss!"

"Woohoo!!! Can't tell you how happy this makes me!!!" wrote Merina Farrell. "Love this event!! Let me know how I can help!!"

Jamie Douglas offered thanks to the organizing committee, sponsors and volunteers.

"I cannot imagine a summer without MBTS."

$40K in cost-cutting

Doyle said the marathon is still looking for a title sponsor and hasn't received any new funding commitments from the three levels of government after losing between $1,000 and $8,000 for each of the past three years.

Still, he expects to be able to reduce expenses by about $40,000 through several significant changes, based on participant feedback.

Eliminating Friday from the schedule by slashing some events and incorporating others into Saturday or Sunday should save about $15,000 in food and music costs alone, he said.

There won't be a Beat the Scotsman 5-km race anymore, the health and wellness expo will be reduced to one day, and participants will each receive one fewer T-shirt.

"So there's a whole bunch of little savings there," Doyle said.

Marathon by the Sea founder and executive director Mike Doyle, pictured here with co-chair Pat Grannan, said the marathon is still looking for a title sponsor for its 25th anniversary next year. (Facebook/Marathon by the Sea)

He hopes to avoid increasing the registration fees, cherishing the marathon's "best bang for the buck" reputation but won't know for sure until estimates come in from suppliers, he said.

Some of the planned changes should also make it easier on volunteers, such as reducing registration to one day instead of three.

The eight core committee members worked 14-hour days this year, said Doyle, describing them as "hard core."

"We couldn't have done it without them."

He hopes a few more people will step up to help with everything from seeking sponsors to setting up the marathon course.

"If we can get three, that's good. If we can get five, that's even better."

A lot of people didn't realize how much we actually had to do. They just came and ran and thought it was great.- Mike Doyle, Marathon by the Sea

At least a dozen people have said they want to participate in the marathon, half-marathon, 10-km or 5-km, but have offered to volunteer until race weekend, he said.

"A lot of people didn't realize how much we actually had to do. They just came and ran and thought it was great. But now, when they see what went into it, they've offered their assistance."

A record number of people participated in this year's events — more than 1,600 from around the world, including every province and one of the territories, 32 states, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and even some cruise ship passengers from Germany, said Doyle.

He estimated the crowd of spectators was about 1,500.

2017 course revived

Everything went smoothly, other than Chesley Drive not being closed to traffic for the Friday night run as expected, said Doyle, chalking it up to a "miscommunication" between organizers and city crews.

They managed to scramble to close one lane by rounding up some pylons, putting a police cruiser on either end, and calling in some extra volunteers to ensure the 650 participants could run safely in the dark.

"It was hectic, but we handled it," he said, adding he will triple check plans next year. "Lesson learned, I guess we can say."

Doyle also plans to revert to the 2017 marathon course next year. This year's double-loop route, required because of road construction, was "probably the toughest easily in Atlantic Canada, if not Eastern Canada," he said.

Participants can also look forward to newly designed medals.