Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races

Crowds of people gather to cheer on the races.

Ever wonder where Harry Houdini grew up? I know, what runner hasn't? Here's your chance to trek through Harry's old stomping grounds in Appleton, Wis., during the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races. And you won't escape--pun intended--without having a good time

From a marathon to a relay to a kids' fun run and more, the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races--with the emphasis on "community"--offers a race for everyone--with the emphasis on "everyone."

The two-day runapalooza kicks off Saturday, September 20, at 8 a.m. with the Time Warner Cable 5K Run/Walk, followed by the Guardian Kids Fun Run at 10 a.m. Both races start and finish at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and serve as a prelude to Fox Cities' version of Super Scamper Sunday on September 21.

Sunday's monster menu includes the Community First Fox Cities Marathon, the U.S. Cellular Half Marathon, the Orthopedic & Sports Institute Relay Marathon and the Appleton Papers 13.1-mile PowerWalk. All running races start at 8 a.m.--the walk goes off at 8:05 a.m.--in front of the Barlow Planetarium on the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley campus in Menasha.

"We've had multi-events since the race started," said Debbie Jansen, Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races event manager. "We feel that by having a variety of races, there's something for everyone. It's a great family weekend."

"Something for everyone" includes the Affinity Health & Fitness Expo, pre-race pasta dinners at local restaurants and a plethora of perks and race-day amenities such as post-race refreshments and massage, medals, chip timing, wind jackets, long-sleeve shirts, winter hats, goody bags and more to runners in the various races.

"For years we offered prize money (to the top finishers). But we've decided to use that money to give something back to the runners," Jansen said, noting that she expects the two-day event to attract about 5,000 participants. "That's important to us."

And just as the race gives back to runners, it also helps numerous charities. This year's charity partners are the Alzheimer's Association, Fields of Honor Military Veterans Museum and Special Olympics Wisconsin. To donate or to obtain information on the race charities, visit:

Community Support and Spirit

Located in northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Cities community comprises the seven cities, towns and villages along the Fox River as it flows from Lake Winnebago northward into the Bay of Green Bay. The scenic marathon and marathon relay course runs through each of the Fox Cities--Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, Kimberly, Combined Locks, Little Chute and Kaukauna--and since the race's inception, the residents of Fox Cities come out in droves to support participants in the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races.

"The people of Fox Cities are very proud of their communities," Jansen said. "When runners go through the different cities, they will see things that are unique to the communities. For instance, some communities have a strong Dutch heritage and runners may see windmills when they pass through."

"The people of the communities really come out to cheer and support the runners each year. There are bands on the course and cheerleading squads from different cities. Last year, we started the 'curb club' where people make and hold signs of encouragement and make noise."

Ensuring the runners are supported is such an integral part of the race that the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races offers a "spirit challenge" and awards prizes of up to $500 to the team that spreads the most cheer during the event.

"There are a lot of people on the course helping runners," Jansen said. "There's a lot of hoopla."

Cool Course

If you've ever watched a Green Bay Packers game, you are familiar with the "frozen tundra" known as Lambeau Field. Well, the tundra is not frozen in September. In fact, September weather in the Badger State is not only charming for Cheeseheads at Lambeau historic but refreshing for runners.

"It's a beautiful time of year in Wisconsin," Jansen said. "And the course is very scenic as it passes through all seven Fox Cities Communities over two bridges, past three parks along Lake Winnebago, as well as past the lighthouse at Kimberly Point."


A number of local hotels are available during race weekend, said Jansen, and many offer race-day shuttle service to the start of the 2008 Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races. Runners planning to travel to the race should make reservations soon, Jansen said, because there is a Green Bay Packers home game that weekend and rooms are booked quickly.

For information on those hotels visit: For information on what's happening in the Fox Cities, visit Fox Cities of Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau at or Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce at

Come Run Fox Cities

With the support of over 2,300 volunteers, more than 150 sponsors and thousands of spectators, participants will be treated like royalty. And what other race will you be afforded the chance to run through Harry Houdini's hometown?

For information on all aspects of the 17th annual Community First Fox Cities Marathon Festival of Races, including on-line registration, training schedules, and pace setters, visit the race's website:

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