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Ely Marathon: 8,390 rods of scenic views

Third-year event includes new ‘portage’ division


ELY - A surge of several hundred runners, and even more spectators, will descend on the Ely area next weekend for the third annual Ely Marathon.

Dubbed the 8,390-rod portage, the race is a scenic yet challenging run along the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Ely Marathon course starts at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 on the North Arm of Burntside Lake at Camp Du Nord. It turns onto the historic Echo Trail, meandering past several lakes before heading on a downhill coast toward Shagawa Lake. From there it takes a slight detour through the village of Winton followed by a quick loop around Miner’s Lake before the final run down Ely’s main street to finish in Whiteside Park, in the heart of the city.

The Ely Marathon is a Boston Qualifier, making it one of the top prestigious races in the nation, said Ely Events Coordinator Wendy Lindsay. Last year there were 450 runners who participated in the full or half -marathons. Based on early registrations, she is anticipating as many as 700 participants.

Defending full marathon champions, Nathaniel Langley, of Madison, Wis., and Auralee Strege, of Duluth, are expected to return to defend their titles, Lindsay said.

Marathon weekend includes the Boundary Waters Bank Half Marathon, which starts at 8 a.m. on Sept. 23 at Echo Shores Resort. This course follows along the full marathon route, highlighting the views of Shagawa Lake, Miner’s Lake, Winton and also ending in Ely’s Whiteside Park.

“New to the half- marathon this year is a Portage Division,” Lindsay said. “Runners have the option of portaging a canoe for the entirety of the half-marathon route, taking running to a whole new level.”

Runners must portage the canoe at all times, however there are people who will pose as “bridges” to hold the canoe while runners rest and rehydrate at the aid stations. Along with receiving a finisher’s shirt and medal, Boundary Waters Bank has donated Camelbak water bottles for those who registered for the half marathon prior to Sept. 1.

Walkers are also welcomed and encouraged to take part in either the full or half-marathon. “The time cut-off is an 18 minute/mile pace, making it comfortable for anyone not up to running speed,” Lindsay said. “Walkers will enjoy the same sights of the wilderness forest and lakes that grace the Ely area.”

The Ely Marathon has also worked with local schools to help instill the joy of running in the community’s youth This year marks the second annual Dorothy Molter Root Beer Run. “Children in grades 3-6 were asked to run 25 miles prior to race day,” she said. “They will then run the last 1.2 miles of the marathon route and finish along with the pomp and circumstance of the marathon finish line. They too will receive the marathon finisher’s shirt and medals, along with Ely’s famous Dorothy Molter Root Beer.”

Ely, Tower and Northeast Range Elementary schools have been working with the students to ensure they reach their mile goals.

On Friday, Sept. 22, brings the Northern Lights Clubhouse 5K Glow Run. “Racers will run just as the sun is going down and will enjoy the thousands of twinkling lights that line the route,” Lindsay said. “Runners are encouraged to don glow wear to add to the atmosphere and can add a glow package to their registration—a fun package that contains glow sticks, shoe laces and much more.”

This is a chip-timed race, however it is also open to anyone wanting to run and/or walk for enjoyment. There will be activities and treats at each 1K marker. “The 5K Glow Run is for people of all ages and abilities from competitive racers to walkers to families with a stroller,” Lindsay said. “Wheel chairs are welcome too.” This light-filled race is a certified 5K route and is a fundraiser for Northern Lights Clubhouse.

Packed weekend

Bring your family and friends as the weekend has a lot more packed into it. On Friday evening from 4-8 p.m., Ely Community Resource will host a spaghetti dinner with meat and meatless sauces, Italian bread, salad and a dessert. This fundraiser for Ely Youth Programs will be held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. “Come for good food, warm conversation with friends and neighbors, and a chance to benefit Ely Community Resource Youth Programs,” Lindsay said.

Ely businesses will host the fifth annual Chocoholic Frolic on Saturday. Participating merchants will be serving up chocolate samples and opportunities to win door prizes and a grand prize of $200 in Ely Chamber Bucks. The more places you visit – the more chances to win. No purchase is necessary.

Saturday brings even more festivities in Whiteside Park. Food trucks serving brats, burgers and more will be available all day. There will be an epic blow-up obstacle course for children from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., sponsored by Stone Soup Events. The Ely Jaycees will host a beer and beverage tent from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. The awards ceremony will take place at 1 p.m.

There will be free music in the park throughout the day and evening sponsored by Bent Paddle Brewing. Washboard Road will perform from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., ​Rich Mattson and The Northstars play from 6-8 p.m. and Martin Zellar and the Hardways close out the night from 8-10 p.m.

“It takes hundreds of volunteers to make this event happen,” Lindsay said. “Email if you would like to be a part of this spectacular event. Families, clubs, groups and individuals are all welcome.”

People are encouraged to get out and cheer on the athletes. “Most runners are quick to say that shouts of encouragement keep them going,” she said. Traffic along the race routes will be limited during the race. The best locations for spectators to watch are listed on the marathon website at

The first finishers for the half-marathon are expected to finish in just over an hour. The full marathon lead finishers will finish in just over two hours.

Registrations for the races will be taken up until race day at “With fall colors at a peak, this promises to be a beautiful run for the racers and a scenic event for spectators,” Lindsay said.

The Ely Marathon is made possible by the Events Coordinator Bureau—a collaboration of the Ely Chamber of Commerce, City of Ely, Ely Area Tourism Bureau, Merchant Committee and Incredible Ely. It is produced by Stone Soup Events, an event planning company in Ely.

For more information about the Ely Marathon, visit, or at Facebook/ Ely-Marathon-and-Half-Marathon.


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