A first-time sporting event on Fort Myers Beach will be making its mark and requiring an early morning bridge closure during Veterans Day weekend.
The inaugural Fort Myers Beach Marathon will be run on Sunday, Nov. 10, beginning at 7 a.m. According to race officials, a recommendation by the Lee County Sheriff's Office involves clearing Matanzas Pass Bridge at approximately 6:50 a.m. and reopening it less than one hour later.
The race will start at Old San Carlos and First Street (in front of Nervous Nellies) and proceed up Crescent Street and Fifth Street and over the bridge. Race officials are anticipating approximately 900 runners in both marathons and 100 participants in the 5k.
"It is our estimation in that basically three quarters of a mile, we would have the bridge reopened by 7:25 a.m.," said Eiden Sports Marketing's Larry Baldwin, the race director. "'We expect the lead runner of the marathon to come back over the bridge at roughly 9:30 a.m. We'll leave the course open for 6 hours."
After crossing the bridge, the race course will take runners through San Carlos Boulevard to Summerlin Road and pass Gladiolus Boulevard and into the side entrance of Lakes Park off of Summerlin. Runners will return by roughly the same route except for the fact that the bridge will no longer be closed.
"They will have the option to use the bike lane adjacent to the sidewalk or the sidewalk," said Baldwin, who pointed out cones will be used to section off the route from the bridge's vehicle lanes.
The title sponsor of the marathon event is Ted Todd Insurance. Proceeds from the event will benefit Harry Chapin Food Bank, Able Academy and Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers.
The event also features a half-marathon (16.1 miles; 7 a.m. start) and a 5k race (expected 7:05 start) that will run coincidentally. The 5k race will turn around 1.55 miles from the bridge on San Carlos Boulevard, while the half marathon will turn at approximately Summerlin and Winkler Road in the Summerlin Crossing neighborhood.
The Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously approved a special event permit, which will include a closed-off area for open containers of alcoholic beverages later that day at Bayside Park (where the Town Fountain is located; adjacent to Nervous Nellies). Nervous Nellies will serve a barbecue party at the fountain to celebrate the winners and feature music by "No Way Jose."
Town officials sent a notification to neighboring properties on Oct. 1 for the expected existence of amplified music. No reported complaints were received as of Oct. 21.
Race officials stated amplification at Bayside Park would only be utilized to alert runners for the start of the race and to acknowledge race leaders upon return at finish line.
The Tedd Todd Insurance Fort Myers Beach Marathon is currently the only marathon located in Southwest Florida. Awards will be given to the top three men and women finishers in the following age groups: age 19-under; age 20-29; age 30-39; age 40-49; age 50-59; age 60-69; and age 70-up.
"We do all we can to diversify tourism in Lee County, and sports is certainly one of them," said Jeff Mielke, executive director, Lee County Sports Development. "This is just one more opportunity for us to showcase our area and show everyone how beautiful our beaches are."
In all, there are hopes the number of participants jumps to 1,200 runners. Currently, participants are representing 36 different states and five countries. LeeTran trolleys are being utilized to drop off and pick up participants.
"We'll have an expo area set up along Old San Carlos Boulevard from First Street to Second Street," said Baldwin. "We expect a lot of people down there cheering at the start/finish area. We are trying to bring tourism down to the area and enjoy the three-day weekend. We hope that this is an annual event."
A day before the race, a 5-kilometer obstacle course is being set up at Bowditch Park and beachfront areas there.
Pink Shell Beach Resort is the official hotel for the event. Race officials stated many participants and families will stay at that resort and other Beach establishments during the course of the holiday weekend.
Go to www.fortmyersbeachmarathon.com for more information.