The home of the world's biggest and best snowmobile race - the I-500 - will play host to a race of a different sort in September when runners converge for the Sault Area Chamber of Commerce's Marathon.
"We're planning right now for 300," said Executive Director Leisa Mansfield shortly after the Sault Ste. Marie City Commission unanimously backed the concept. "Being able to use the (International) bridge makes it real unique."
The race is scheduled for Saturday, September 25 and without even having a single runner officially signed in, Mansfield was already anticipating a lot of interest.
"I'd be delighted if we got 500," she said. This race will be the key in making this event a permanent staple in the Sault - drawing thousands of runners - she added, "as long as we do things right the first time."
The 26.2 mile race will start on the campus of Lake Superior State University, head into Canada over the International Bridge and turn around before reaching the Canadian Customs Plaza.
After completing that leg of the journey, marathon runners will be routed along Portage Avenue to Riverside Drive up to Seven Mile Road where they will turn around and race back to Brady Park. The average participant, it is estimated, will be able to complete the lengthy run in approximately four hours.
Mansfield said that other races will be held on that day including a half-marathon, a 10 K run and a bridge run. "It makes it more appealing to all kinds of runners," she explained.
Preparations are already underway to ensure the Sault Marathon is certified by the USA Track and Field which would make the race a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
"We want to show them we have a legitimate race," Mansfield concluded.
The commission has pledged the use of city streets for the event. The city will also provide law enforcement staffing to assist with traffic during the race, in addition to barricades and cones to keep the runners away from automobiles while they participate in the inaugural race.