NEWPORT NEWS — Monday's sweltering heat was hardly conducive for running 26.2 miles, but the air conditioning inside the Marriott City Center was working just fine. So there was plenty of enthusiasm as officials announced the inaugural Newport News One City Marathon, which should take place in more favorable temperatures.
The first full marathon on the Peninsula is scheduled for March 15, starting at Newport News Park near Fort Eustis and finishing downtown at the Victory Arch. The course will take runners through the Christopher Newport University campus, along the James River and past various neighborhoods.
The idea was the brainchild of City Manager James M. Bourey, an avid runner who sees the marathon serving multiple purposes.
"We think it can be a great, galvanizing time to bring people together in this community," he said. "We really want all the neighborhoods to come out and celebrate what's happening in the city.
"The city is so linear and narrow, and it's made up of a lot of neighborhoods that came together over a course of many years. It's so diverse. It'll be a great way to unite the city."
At Monday morning's news conference, which began with "Eye of the Tiger" blaring over the speakers, Bourey and Mayor McKinley L. Price both wore running shoes, shorts, and T-shirts reading "We Are One City." Newport News Shipbuilding was announced as the lead sponsor — president Matt Mulherin has reserved bib number 1886, the year NNS was founded — and Flat Out Events has been contracted as the race manager.
Also, in a video message, Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray said he plans to run in the event. He displayed his bib number — 1.
"I love the mission behind One City, to create unity in the community while promoting healthy living," McGillivray said. "I look forward to watching things develop over the next few months, and I also look forward to participating myself and seeing all of you at the starting line."
McGillivray, founder of DMSE and director of the Run For the Dream Half Marathon two weeks ago in Williamsburg, is scheduled to be the featured speaker at the pre-race dinner on March 14.
The weekend's schedule also includes a health and wellness expo at the Marriott as well as an 8K and one-mile run.
"The city manager came up with the concept," Price said. "As a runner, he automatically thought it would be a great place to do a marathon. Because of the geography, uniting the city with one event would be very spectacular.
"We've had a problem with people not connecting because the city is so long. This is going to be a unifying event. We're expecting the streets to be filled with people for the whole event."
Though March was picked because of more favorable weather, the weekend of the 15th could present timing issues. The 43rd Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach is the following weekend, and running two marathons in a seven-day window is something only the truly elite runners would attempt.
But Bourey doesn't see that as a concern.
"There are so many marathons in the fall that it didn't make sense to do it (then)," he said. "And the spring, if you're going to do it, someone isn't going to run both races, anyway. So the fact that it's only one week (apart), it could be a month or two (apart) and it really wouldn't matter."
Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649.