Marathon by the Sea has ‘run its course,’ says director

The Marathon by the Sea in Saint John reached the finish line Sunday after close to three decades.

Mike Doyle, the event’s founder and executive director, said there has been a drop in runners, volunteers and sponsors in the last few years, which is why it is wrapping up.

“I’m disappointed but eventually you have to ask if it’s worth the extra strain it puts on a person to keep it developing,” said Doyle.

About 600 runners participated in this year’s race weekend ending Sunday. It is used to attract anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000.

Saint John’s Marathon by the Sea went ahead for the final time on the New Brunswick Day long weekend. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC News)

Doyle said there were only 45 volunteers, about half the number the event typically requires.

“This year was just overwhelmingly hard for everybody…. I mean you’re working 16 hours a day to get everything done,” said Doyle.

“If there’s no appreciation for the event it just makes you wonder why we put all this effort into it.”

Doyle said he can’t access any provincial or federal funding and there is a lot of competition for sponsorships.

The 2018 Marathon by the Sea saw a record 1,658 participants. (Facebook/Marathon by the Sea)

He said the event used to attract sponsorships worth $65,000 per year, but that decreased number to about $17,000 this year.

“I’ve been asking for money for 29 years, so they see my name and they don’t even call back … but I don’t blame them, they know what I want,” said Doyle.

Doyle said the event had been successful and grew over the years, but it’s “run its course.”

The medals given to each runner hinted at the event’s end, inscribed “1995 to 2022.”

Doyle is shown with co-chair Pat Grannan in 2018. (Facebook/Marathon by the Sea)

Doyle said participants and volunteers will be surprised since he didn’t spread the news that this would be the event’s final year.

“It’s been a lot of fun… it’s been a blast,” he said.

Doyle said the best part of the experience has been meeting so many people and getting to witness runners achieve their goals.

Not a sudden end

In 2018, Doyle considered ending the marathon the following year due to a lack of funding and volunteer support.

He said the marathon was no longer making the $30,000 required to cover the initial costs for the following year.

Instead, the event had lost between $1,000 and $8,000 the prior three years.

Runners take off at the Marathon by the Sea in 2014. (CBC)

The marathon was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, but moved forward with a virtual event in 2021.

Doyle said the marathon received no sponsorships in either year, but there were still expenses, including storage.

He said storage alone is $3,500 a month.

Doyle said the event could return in the future, but would need to be financially viable.

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