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Grandma's 2009 not a sellout

Jacob Moe of River Falls, Wis., squeezes water out of a sponge at the 13-mile mark of Grandma's Marathon on June 21, 2008. The marathon attracted record participation last year but will fall short of a sellout in 2009. (2008 file / News Tribune)

Grandma's Marathon expects a shortfall of about $80,000 this year due to a drop in entries, but executive director Scott Keenan says the not-for-profit organization budgets conservatively and is in good shape financially.

Registration for the 33rd annual race ended Monday and organizers had 8,338 entrants near the close of business, although entries were taken on line through midnight. Keenan expected to top out at about 8,400, while the entry limit was 9,500 for the June 20 event.

It marks the first time in

15 years that the event didn't sell out. The marathon had an all-time high of 9,904 runners a year ago, but the recession took a bite out of entries in 2009, Keenan said.

"We had a solid dose of reality after the first two or three weeks of our registration period in January," said Keenan, who has been with the race from the start in 1977. "Since economic conditions took a downturn, it's been very understandable that our numbers would be down.

"But we're helped by not overdoing it on our budget estimates and we have diversity in our revenue streams. We're not just dependent on entry fees. We're going to weather this, financially, and we feel very confident that once the economy turns around, the runners will be back."

Keenan said the race will be 900 to 1,000 shy of projected entry numbers. Grandma's Marathon had an entry fee of $85.

The marathon, operating on a $2.2 million budget, projected 2009 revenue of $748,000 from entry fees. Other projections for significant revenue-producing related events include a spaghetti dinner for $60,000, health and fitness expo for $49,000 and finish line activities (music, merchandise, food) for $158,000. The race also has three major sponsors -- Target, Wells Fargo and Toyota -- and more than 100 sponsors overall, providing $500,000 of in-kind services.

Grandma's Marathon was the 13th-largest 26.2-mile race in the United States in 2008, with 6,876 times finishers. Marathons in some larger U.S. cities have had sold-out fields this year, including: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; Rock 'n' Roll Arizona in Phoenix; Miami Marathon; Georgia Marathon in Atlanta; and the Austin (Texas) Marathon.

Entry numbers for sold-out accompanying Grandma's Marathon races are a record 6,670 in the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon on June 20 and a record 1,522 in the William A. Irvin five-kilometer race June 19.