Milwaukee Marathon cancellation impacts student-run business

The+Milwaukee+Marathon+was+cancelled+due+to+the+new+coronavirus.+

Photo by Elena Fiegen

The Milwaukee Marathon was cancelled due to the new coronavirus.

The Milwaukee Marathon, which was supposed to take place April 11, has been canceled due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also prohibited public gatherings of 50 or more people on March 16 and it was changed to 10 or more a day later on March 17.

Owen Raisch is the founding associate director and CEO of the student-run business program at Marquette called Blue & Gold Ventures that includes 5 business ventures. One of these businesses ventures is 1881 Event Productions, which is managed by four MU students. The company previously helped organize the 2019 Milwaukee Marathon and was helping organize and involved in the 2020 marathon and has also worked on other events such as the 2018 Milwaukee Blockchain Conference and the opening of Vida Coffee.

Raisch said he worked on the partnership with Rugged Races. Rugged Races is a Boston-based company that bought the Milwaukee Marathon in August 2018 and organizes the race.

Izzy Stanton, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, is the president of 1881 Productions. She said her business was hired by Rugged Races to work on “everything Milwaukee based.”  

Kole Kloostra, a junior in the College of Communication and the project manager at 1881 Productions, said he worked on getting students from Marquette, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering to participate in the marathon to grow a sense of community and grow relationships. 

Kloostra said Rugged Races was responsible for getting bigger sponsors such as the Milwaukee Bucks, and he was responsible for getting smaller sponsors such as local gyms to participate in the marathon. 

Both Raisch and Kloostra both said many runners who participate in the Milwaukee Marathon use it to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Once the Boston Marathon which had been scheduled for Sept. 14 was canceled, Raisch said it was a simple decision to cancel the Milwaukee Marathon. Raisch also said a lot of people fly into Milwaukee for the marathon, which was another factor in their decision to cancel it.

Stanton said that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers prohibited all events that included more than 50 people which resulted in the marathon being canceled. The ban has recently been changed limiting events to only 10 people. She said they also wanted to “try to minimize risk” of people getting the coronavirus.   

Kloostra said the decision to cancel the marathon was “unavoidable.” He said they were expecting 10,000-15,000 attendees at the event, which is too many people under Evers’ order. 

Raisch said that once they canceled the event, they received a positive reaction, with people supporting the cancellation. 

Stanton said they received “amazing feedback,” and people thought it was the right decision. She said people had been trying to pull out of the event, and now that it was canceled, they wouldn’t feel pressured to run. 

Kloostra said that event being canceled was a “bummer to the team and the runners.” He said hopefully they will be back next year. 

Even though the actual marathon is canceled, there is still a digital option where runners can still participate. Stanton said people who want to participate in the digital race will run the race they signed up for on their own and then send in their results. She said they will post their times, which will be recorded on the website, and there will be a “virtual celebration.”

While Stanton also said the runners have the option of being refunded or being sent a shirt, medal, number and free merchandise from the sponsors. Kloostra said Rugged Races handles the ticket sales and will be in charge of giving out the refunds. 

Kori Church, of Rugged Races, said runners will not be receiving refunds. However, all runners will receive their race swag — such as shirts, quarter zips and medals — regardless of if they submit their time online.

Raisch said the cancellation means the loss of a unique opportunity, but students working at 1881 Productions will still have the opportunity to learn how to engage clients through the digital marathon.

Kloostra said he thinks the fact that the marathon had no option to stay open shows how serious the virus is. He said it’s “important to stay home and stay healthy.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that runners would receive refunds, when that is not the case. The Wire regrets this error.

This story was written by Matthew Choate. He can be reached at matthew.choate@marquette.edu.