Marathon and half marathon runners are turning out well for the five-day, five event, five-state Center of the Nation Marathon Series that will run on the RiverWalk bike and walking path for the South Dakota leg.
Clint Burleson, organizer for the event, listed an average of about 140 marathoners for each of the five days that begin Sept. 16 in North Dakota, then continues with three days headquartering in Belle Fourche for one-a-day runs in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, then heading to Chadron for the Nebraska run Sept. 20.
The series is part of a trend for marathoners to try to run in all 50 states, and with five states near Belle Fourche, the community makes an ideal central headquarters for three of them - and a central point for travel from North Dakota and to Nebraska.
Burleson said there's no time limit, no runner will be left behind, and that walkers are welcome.
The North Dakota run has 142 marathon runners registered and 62 half-marathon runners registered for the event.
The three days headquartering in Belle Fourche begins with the South Dakota run on the RiverWalk. There are 140 marathoners and 62 half marathoners registered as of Aug. 30.
Still headquartered in Belle Fourche, the Sept. 18 Wyoming run has 151 people registered for the full marathon and 62 half marathon runners registered. The Montana leg Sept. 19 has 126 marathoners and 62 half marathon runners registered.
The Chadron finale for Nebraska has 131 marathon and 66 half marathon runners registered.
Burleson said earlier this year that he made the change from Rocky Point State Recreation Area at the Belle Fourche Reservoir for several reasons.
"The state park out there is nice, but the RiverWalk is entirely off the roads and no traffic to worry about," he said. "It's beautiful here, and we're going to be starting just north of the visitor center and the race will run down there through the avenue of flags."
That adds spectator opportunity throughout Belle Fourche.
"The back deck at the chamber will be just perfect," he said. "You will be able to watch runners in every direction and the finish line will be right out from the chamber's deck."
The course has been set so that runners will do 12 circuits for the marathon and six circuits for the half marathon runners.
He said the path's concrete surface is harder than asphalt such as encountered at the famous Boston marathon, but runners can run on the grass - and modern running shoes are very well cushioned.
Many of the runners planning for the Center of the Nation series have been at the Boston marathon that was marred by terrorist bombs.
"A dozen or two went to Boston," Burleson said. "None of them luckily were hurt."
Burleson credits Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce executive Teresa Schanzenbach with helping to get the series organized in Belle Fourche and with law enforcement agencies.
In August, he said there were runners coming from 38 states. One runner is from the U.K., one from Iceland, he said.
It's an expensive hobby to try to run as many marathons in as many states as possible, Burleson said.
"But it does encourage people to exercise, to eat properly with good nutrition," he said. "It can't be too terrible when the top runners are all in their mid 60s and older."
Number 1 American marathoner for quantity is Jim Simpson from California.
"He hit 1,000 marathons on January 1, 2013, the first North American to do that," Burleson said. "He is 70 and he looks more like he's about 50."
Burleson said he has one concern about the marathon series.
"We have nobody from Montana," he said.
For more information on the series, see http://mainlymarathons.com/