The second Bakersfield Marathon will be bigger and better than the first, organizers say.
At a press conference held in CSU Bakersfield's Icardo Room on Wednesday, race co-founder and executive director David Milazzo revealed some changes for the race, to be held Nov. 12. The event will have new races, a new theme and a new major sponsor.
“Our planning efforts are moving forward very smoothly, with the race just four weeks away,” he said. “We’re working hard to produce an event worthy of our great city. We get this wonderful opportunity to show off the beauty, the majesty and the diversity of our town.”
One of the biggest changes is the theme: the Bakersfield Sound. Elements will be noticeable.
“In year one, we dedicated the race to all things Bakersfield. This year and for subsequent years, our idea was to deep dive on a single industry that makes Bakersfield tick, something special,” he said.
Milazzo said the Health and Wellness Expo, which is held on Nov. 11, will take place this year at the Buck Owens Crystal Palace.
“That gives people an opportunity to to look around the museum and get a taste of Buck’s signature masterpiece concert venue,” he said. “Most of us from Bakersfield know this but for a lot of the people coming from out of town, this is new to them. We want to show off something that we contributed to the American music scene.”
Milazzo said that finishers of both the full and half marathons will receive medallions shaped in the form of Owens’ signature guitar.
Another new element at the marathon this year is a Trail of Talent, located near the end of the race path. Milazzo said local bands, magicians and balloon artists will perform.
“It’s where you need the most motivation to complete [the marathons],” he said. “We want to try to give more energy to help our runners.”
The event will include a new race in honor of Sgt. Dennis Moore, who died last year. Milazzo said Moore served as the marathon’s liaison to the Bakersfield Police Department.
“We had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Sgt. Moore,” he said.
Milazzo said a marker will be placed at the 8.36 mile mark heading back to CSUB in honor of Moore, whose badge number was 836. He said there will be a special race for officers and family and friends of Moore that will start at the marker and end back at the college.
“It’s a small contribution, but we’re honored to honor Sgt. Moore’s service to our community,” he said.
This year’s marathon will have a new program for returning runners called the Legacy Club. The program will start off small with special badges and a few other surprises, but Milazzo said he expects it to grow and offer more benefits to participants.
“It’s going to be low-key in year one, but in subsequent years, expect the Legacy Club to really have some weight and power. You’re going to want to be a part of it,” he said.
One of the biggest behind-the-scenes changes is the new sponsor, Dignity Health, which has signed on for this year and subsequent marathons.
“Dignity is, simply put, a perfect partner,” Milazzo said. “(This) is how races like the Bakersfield Marathon grow to be world-class events. The number of ideas and enhancements they’ve brought will truly take us to the next level.”
Walter Ray, Dignity's vice president of business development and physician relations, said the company is excited to be a part of the marathon.
“Being part of an event that focuses not just on physical but spiritual wellness of a community is what we at Dignity Health are all about," he said.
The race course itself isn’t changing much this year, outside of a slight adjustment to the start and finish areas.
“Last year ended on a bike path on the perimeter parkway. That was great, but it was a little congested, so this year we’re going to keep the [runners] going straight across Stockdale Highway to finish right on campus,” Milazzo said.
The full race will head up Truxtun Avenue, making its way up to Panorama Drive on the east side of the city, then heading back into downtown, California Avenue and Stockdale Highway.
The half marathon will head into downtown before heading back to the college. There will be a celebration with live music, food and more at the end of the races.
Expect road closures Sunday morning along the race course on Stockdale Highway, California Avenue, Chester Avenue and other roads. Police officers and volunteers will be on hand to help with traffic. Milazzo said they’re making some adjustments to traffic flow to make it a little easier for motorists to get through closures.
“If you’re in area that’s impacted, you will have the ability to cross over the course when there aren’t any runners,” Milazzo said.