It started as a fraternity stunt, but running enthusiasts the world over now look forward to it almost as much as the Boston and New York Marathons. It’s the Mile-High Marathon, a uniquely urban race, and it happens right here in our very own city.
The goal of the marathon (although, at seven total miles of running distance, it remains far from an actual marathon) is to run every continuous inch of it along the city’s landscaping and architecture – as long as you run above street-level!
The race begins – as it has ever since Tau Theta Mu pledges first made the run in 1978 – on the Calvin Siegel Walkway running adjacent to the elevated train at the Pepper Avenue and 77th Street station. The brick walkway runs three-quarters of a mile along a beautifully landscaped flower garden, and luckily leads directly to the Industry Island Ferry.
Runners jog up the gangplank, up the stairs, and take a mandatory fifty laps of the upper decks before disembarking on the island (although officials frown on runners taking to using the low wall surrounding the island, they tacitly allow foot traffic as long as a strict one-at-a-time and “no rough-housing” rule is obeyed). From the walls, runners hop to the stairs leading up to the Wheat Bay Aquarium, running across the plexiglass “Bridge Across the Sea” (one at a time, monitored by off-duty police officers), and then taking speed-walking laps inside the elevated cable car as it takes them back to the mainland (deliberate rocking of the car earns instant disqualification from the race).
From there, it’s across the marble walkway at the Center Alley Public Library, across the backs of the Seven Virtues statues, up the stairwell at Business Plaza Tower to the 22nd floor, where runners are allowed ten at a time across the enclosed corporate walkway leading to the Darcy Ford-Davis Building.
Runners then take to the second and third stories of Cashville Mall, eventually boarding the British-style double-decker tour busses which are specifically rented for the event. Traffic regulations limit the athletic activity in which one can engage on the exposed top tier of a two-story bus, so runners content themselves with stomping their feet while sitting comfortably, until they reach the Wonderland Walk at Mabel Tripp Gardens.
Running the Wonderland Walk boardwalk leads participants to an awkward scramble up and down the curves of the Gardens’ famous wooden roller-coaster, The ‘Splitter, after which elated and exhausted runners can finally reach the home-stretch- The Mile High Marathon elevated bridge, built specifically for the event in 2003, funded by private contributions.
Participants past, present and future are currently petitioning the city to add a 1300-foot extension to the Mile-High Marathon Bridge, linking it to modern artist Christo’s 1992 installation “Stilt City,” adding another valuable 500 yards to the Marathon and bringing it within spitting distance of Chauncey Butler Arena, the year-round home to the Chauncey Butler Circus and its tantalizing assortment of highwires and trapezes.
– J. Morris