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Despite challenges, Salt Lake City Marathon set to start with help from U.S. Road Sports

Salt Lake City Marathon flags hang at the Gateway in Salt Lake City  Wednesday, April 13, 2011.
Salt Lake City Marathon flags hang at the Gateway in Salt Lake City Wednesday, April 13, 2011.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Saying that Peter Handy and his colleagues at U.S. Road Sports had a tough road to hoe in staging the Salt Lake Marathon this year is like describing Death Valley in July as a bit warm.

It is a massive understatement.

U.S. Road Sports bought the nine-year-old event from Devine Racing a little over 65 days ago after several years of declining numbers and mounting debt from unpaid bills. The financial issues had ravaged the race's reputation, and frankly just about everybody thought it was a lost cause.

Everybody, that is, except Handy and company.

On the eve of the race, Handy said he was most pleased that no runner who paid and trained for the event would be disappointed.

"It's very gratifying," said Handy, a founding partner of U.S. Road Sports, of the marathon which begins at 7 a.m. Saturday. "Putting on a good event is not easy. When you have a limited amount of time, it becomes even more difficult. But we had a great effort from everybody involved, and I think the proof will be in the pudding."

U.S. Road Sports had to deal with skeptical vendors who made the new company pay up front because sometimes past bills went unpaid for months or years. They had to convince volunteers that they were a cause worth investing their time and energy in once again.

"We started with a lot of negative press and a lot of baggage," he said. And then the company's employees went to work proving that they could be trusted.

Handy said he never doubted they'd get the necessary permits for the races - a marathon, half marathon, 5K and bike tour.

"I just didn't know whether we'd get the community support on the volunteers," he said. "We have such good people who work at the company, I knew that we could get the things done that we needed to. But finding 400 to 500 volunteers in 60 days, was swimming against the current. That was the only thing that kept me up at night."

Handy spent a lot of time in Utah at running stores answering questions and listening to frustrations. He and his colleagues repaired relationships with many of the vendors, some of whom had vowed not to work the race ever again.

The registration numbers are about 80 percent of what they were last year, but he believes this year will prove that U.S. Road Sports puts on the kind of event worthy of a runner's time, attention and, of course, money.

"We thing this will be a good springboard to many, many great races in the future," he said.

Handy said he didn't expect perfection Saturday, but he did believe they'd offer a great race including nearly perfect weather.

"We've been doing Miami for 10 years and were still coming up with better ways of doing some things," he said.


6 a.m. - Bike Tour begins at Olympic Legacy Bridge

6:10 a.m. - Hand cycle and wheelchair start

6:15 a.m. - Marathon Walkers/Runners early start

7 a.m. - Marathon and half marathon start at Olympic Legacy Bridge

7:10 a.m. 5K Start medals plaza, 55 N. 300 West

10:45 a.m. - Kids marathon start at medals plaza, 55 N. 300 West