Milwaukee is the largest city in the country that does not play host to a major urban marathon, according to Chris Ponteri, founder of the nonprofit Milwaukee Marathon Inc. and head of a movement to organize a large-scale marathon in the city.
While the annual Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is “a nice race,” Ponteri said, it does not draw enough runners to be considered a major marathon and it is not set exclusively in Milwaukee.
With close to 2,100 runners already registered, the new marathon will hit Milwaukee this fall as Ponteri’s nonprofit pulls together the Milwaukee Running Festival. The two-day fest will feature a health and fitness expo and one-mile race on Oct. 31, followed by a 5K, half marathon and full marathon taking off from the Summerfest grounds on Nov. 1.
Ponteri hopes to engage the broader community in the marathon event and spread the sport throughout Milwaukee. He has run more than 20 marathons and coordinated a variety of races through a separate company, Longrun Athletics.
“I always say that I’m a better person because of running – better husband and father and worker and friend because of running,” Ponteri said. “I think it helps me just be a better person. I find that a lot of runners are that way.”
Ponteri anticipates the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival will draw between 6,000 and 10,000 runners from around the world and will inject close to $5 million into Milwaukee’s economy.