A half marathon in the fall in Traverse City – it’s the stuff of dreams for northern Michigan runners; long distance events haven’t yet taken place here during the popular fall race season.
It’s this fact that prompted national race company Reinke Sports Group to select TC as one of its USRA Half Marathon Running Series destinations. The inaugural Traverse City Half Marathon is slated for Oct. 23.
But since word of the race has gotten out, some in the local running community are cautious, given a few of the Florida-based event organizer’s experiences working with other communities.
The Traverse City Track Club opted not to involve itself with Reinke. The Club is dedicated to assisting with running- and health-related events, but members didn’t feel good about working with Dean Reinke, says Karen Wells, Track Club president.
“We were approached to assist him in his event, and we declined because of his reputation,” Wells says. “I hope this gentleman is honorable in his intent, but as a club, we did not want to be connected at all with this director or his event.”
An online search of Reinke reveals numerous news reports and forum message threads, including one on RunnersWorld.com, detailing municipalities and charities that signed on with Reinke only to later deal with unmet expectations or other issues.
Reinke tells The Ticker he’s had issues with some communities, but says they’re the exception, not the rule.
“We had one instance a few years ago where a city tried to steal our event, so we’re very protective of that,” he says. “We create a property, we have to register that name, trademark that name and we’ve had some people who want to steal that. That is not an issue any more. The end of the day, we have a great reputation … People love our brand.”
Some 16,000 runners participated in the USRA Half Marathon Running Series last year and more than 20,000 are expected to register this year, Reinke says.
For Tony Anderson, a local marathoner who agreed to work with Reinke on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the not-so-great buzz has caused some concern.
“They approached us because they heard about Marathon4Kids,” says Anderson, whose goal of running marathons in all 50 states is raising funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It seemed like a natural fit. (But) I need to feel better. It could be positive for the town, but I’m a little uneasy. This week, we need to make the decision to pull out or not.”
Reinke Sports Group contacted the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) more than a year ago.
“Our role with Dean has really been making introductions to the people and the processes, for street closures, for city approval of the Open Space,” says the CVB’s Brad Van Dommelen. “He initially approached us looking for some funding – but we told him that wasn’t something we do, but that we would help him and be a local resource for him.”
Reinke, who came to town last weekend to finalize event details, says the CVB “has been tremendously helpful” and that he’s looking forward to an exceptional event.
“We’ve got some great partnerships,” he says of local sponsors, which include Huntington Bank, Holiday Inn, H. Cox & Son and radio station Classic Rock the Bear.
Reinke says he and his staff also have met with and received input from local runners about the out-and-back race course that starts on Front Street, takes runners along the west side of Old Mission Peninsula and finishes at the Open Space.
Van Dommelen is hopeful the event will turn out to be a great one for the community.
“Obviously our radar is a little enhanced on this just because of the comments we’ve heard,” he says. “I just told Dean our concern is that people coming … have a positive event and that this event reflects positively on our community.”
Register and learn more about the Traverse City Half Marathon, which also includes a 5K and 1-mile fun run, at http://www.runtraversecityhalf.com