Chris Ponteri is Executive Director of Milwaukee Marathon, Inc., which is putting together the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival October 30 – November 1, 2015.
It appears that something special is happening in Milwaukee at the end of October. Would you like to briefly tell us about it?
We are putting together the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival, which is exactly what the name suggests: a festival of running. And since Milwaukee is the “City of Festivals,” we feel it’s a good fit.
Why did you decide to make this a three-day event rather than simply a one-day marathon?
Most major marathons are in fact three-day events since they have an expo the two days leading up to the race. We decided to not only have the expo, but also have some other events like a mile race and a kick-off party. Many of our city’s festivals are not just held on one day; they run multiple days. This is no different.
How many running events are being held in addition to the marathon?
There will be a half-marathon, a 5k race and a mile race.
Do you have an estimate of how many runners will be participating in the marathon and in the other running events?
Being a first-year event it’s really hard to tell. If I had to guess, I would say we will get about 2,000 registrants for the marathon and approximately 5,000 for the other races.
How will the city of Milwaukee benefit from the Milwaukee Running Festival?
There are multiple benefits to the city. The most obvious one is the economic impact it will generate. The least obvious one is the impact it will have in the various neighborhoods we will run through. We are doing considerable outreach in these areas and trying to get the residents involved, not just as spectators or volunteers; we would like to see them participate in one of the races. There are numerous other benefits including attraction and retention of professionals who want to live and work in a city with major running events like this, promotion of a healthy activity, and raising funds for charity.
How will Milwaukee charities benefit from the Festival?
We have a charity program in which runners can sign up to raise funds for one of the participating organizations. So far we have five charity partners.
Runners have a broad variety of locations to choose from in selecting a marathon to participate in. Why would you encourage them to participate in this first-time event?
We are creating something special here and I can tell you that there will be a huge buzz in the running community after our event. So why not be part of it in its first year?
I understand that you are seeking to ensure diversity in terms of the participants who will be running through the streets of Milwaukee’s historic neighborhoods. Can you tell us about your work in coordinating with representatives of the African-American and Hispanic communities in Milwaukee?
One of the missions of this event is to bring running to some of the segments of our community that are not as exposed to it as others. This includes Milwaukee’s African-American and Hispanic communities. I have made it a priority to find influential runners among these populations and asked for their help in spreading the word about running and our event. I am very excited about this.
How will you know if the Festival is a success?
It will be a success if we get to do it again next year.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One common misconception about this is that it is solely a running event. As I have said hundreds of times, this is a community event first and a running event second. We want to do everything we can to include the entire community and try to get them to be a part of this. We want to create an event that will make people proud to live and work in the Milwaukee area.
The Milwaukee Running Festival will take place from October 30 through November 1, 2015.[amazon asin=0738216453&template=iframe image]