There was a notable void in the Albuquerque running community in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancelation of the Duke City Marathon.
“The running community is so tight-knit. Not having an in-person race in 2020 was really hard on everyone,” said Burt Trembly, board member with the Duke City Marathon. “People like getting together and like running together. We’ve seen that. I think the pandemic kind of showed us that.”
The long-running – no pun intended – tradition will return in its intended form Sunday, Oct. 17, with a course that starts and ends at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque. In addition to the marathon itself, there will be six other races to choose from: a marathon relay, a half-marathon, a 10K run, a 5K run, a 10K walk and a 5K walk.
The significance of having one of the city’s signature events back in place is not lost on Trembly, who has been involved with the race for nearly two decades.
“It’s huge,” he said. “We like to say that there are three major things that take place every fall in New Mexico. That’s the State Fair, the Balloon Fiesta and, right on the heels of the Balloon Fiesta, comes the Duke City Marathon, which is the longest-running and premier fitness event in the state. In fact, we’re still the only Boston Marathon qualifier in the whole state. We’ve been around since 1984. Even without being able to have an in-person race last year, it’s still stronger than ever.”
According to Trembly, Duke City Marathon officials have received a barrage of emails and calls regarding the event on a near-daily basis.
“People are very excited,” he said. “I think there’s a great energy out there for an in-person race, since we weren’t able to do so last year.”
Start times are staggered about 15 minutes apart, which should help alleviate concerns about congestion at the beginning of races. Additionally, volunteers at the “motivation stations,” which provide water, Gatorade, medical supplies and general assistance, will be masked and gloved. Otherwise, Trembly says the Duke City Marathon will adhere to the state’s current safety guidelines regarding the ongoing pandemic. Neither a vaccination card nor proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test will be required at the event.
“We have seven different races and they all start at different times. It’s not like there’s 4,000 people crowded into one starting line,” Trembly said. “So they’re pretty spread out already. We’ll be making announcements to continue to spread out near the starting line, because that’s really the only time crowds are together. … People coming across the finish line are rarely in big groups.”
Attendees can make a weekend of the festivities. On Saturday, Oct. 16, there will be a Health & Fitness Expo at the Convention Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., which is where last-minute registration packets will be available for late sign-ups. One notable new addition to the proceedings on Sunday is a beer garden, which serves Michelob Ultra from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Marathon participants will receive beverages at a discounted rate. The race also aids a good cause, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Club of Central New Mexico. As far as registration numbers go, Trembly says it’s difficult to quantify whether numbers are up or down because all the 2020 entries have carried over to this year.
“The other thing is, because there is still a mask mandate in New Mexico and because the coronavirus is obviously still out there, I think you’ll have some people who might want to give it one more year,” Trembly said. “You have both. You have some people who are really excited to get back and be together again. And then you have some people saying, ‘You know what, I’ll wait one more year.’ ”
Duke City Marathon officials have monitored both the State Fair and the Balloon Fiesta, and are confident that the state can complete its fall trifecta of popular events this weekend.
“We feel really good about what we’re able to pull off in terms of a safe and in-person race,” Trembly said. “Our basic course is outside and Civic Plaza is outside. Everything on the race day is outside. If people are comfortable wearing a mask, that’s great. If they’d rather run without a mask, that’s great, too. It’s their choice.”