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If the Deseret News Marathon is any indication, interest in long-distance running definitely is growing.

Nearly 500 men and women from around the United States and Canada participated in the 24th annual Deseret News Marathon on July 24, reflecting the continuing growth in registration over the past few years.And of the 496 runners in the marathon, 90 percent finished, according to race officials. Two wheelchair racers also participated and finished.

This year's registration was the largest since 1986 when 512 signed up for the 26.2-mile race.

The Deseret News Marathon, run for the first time in 1970, was the first of its kind in the state and showed a steady increase in participation each year. In 1980, however, as interest in long-distance running dwindled, the race began to experience a downward trend in participation from its high of 1,493 runners.

It also shared this annual loss with most other marathons throughout the country except the larger ones such as Boston and New York.

In 1987, 484 marathoners signed up, followed by 408 in 1988 and 381 in 1989. Then, in 1990, registration increased to 393 and went up again in 1991 to 403. Last year, 463 men and women signed up for the marathon.

Sensing the loss of interest in the marathon, the Deseret News in 1984 launched a shorter event - the 10,000-meter (6.2 miles) road race - and both are held on the same date but at different starting times and locations.

The first 10K in 1970 attracted 985 runners and in this year's race, 1,255 men and 621 women registered for a total of 1,876.

Holding the racing event on Saturday may have prompted larger turnouts this year, because it attracts out-of-state runners. In 1994, the races will be held again on Saturday when July 24 falls on Sunday.