Run Madtown is a great set of races with a 40+ year history.

Confused? Here’s how it came to be: the first runner-organized marathon in Madison happened in 1974, when 59 runners looped twice around Lake Monona. Except for a few gaps, annual Madison marathon races continued for decades. From the mid-1990s onward, a traditional half-marathon and marathon were held in Madison on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend—the least weekend in May.

And then things started to heat up. Literally. The number of participants rose, and so did early summer temperatures. Heat advisories in 2006 and 2010 derailed the plans of many runners, and in 2012 the full marathon course option was canceled days before the race on the advice of medical directors. With the thermometer hitting 94 degrees F, heat stroke and heat exhaustion would have been inevitable for 99 percent of the marathon field.

Moving the full marathon to Veteran’s Day weekend in November, 2013 was a logical choice. Early November is excellent timing for a marathon from a weather standpoint and as a classic, end-of-season capstone event. Memorial Day weekend continued to host a half-marathon on Sunday, with the addition of a popular Saturday evening Twilight 10K and 5K that launched in 2012.

But this left a conundrum: What do you call the spring event? “We used Spring and Fall, May and November. We kept the same name (Madison Marathon) for both weekends but changed the colors of the logo to red for November, keeping the blue for May. But it was confusing, because there was no marathon offered in May; some people would register for the Half in May when they really wanted the Half in November,” explained Rita Kelliher, president, Madison Festivals Inc., the nonprofit entity that owns and operates the event.

So starting in 2017, the name of the Memorial Day event is being inspired by what a survey of runners said they loved most about it. “The survey results were really clear,” said Kelliher. “The spring event is a friendly, approachable distance that’s perfect for newer runners, and also a great early-season building race for runners working toward longer events.”

The addition of the Twilight races has added a festive, community celebration as well—a chance to see the beautiful night-lit State Capitol building, and take joy in warmer evenings after a long Wisconsin winter. A vibrant new logo with bold colors corresponds to the energy of the weekend.

Runners are enthusiastic about the change. “Run Madtown’s new name reflects the festival-like atmosphere that helps kick off the running season. It celebrates the sport and fun behind what racing should be,” said Madison-based runner Steve Donovan.

It’s all about action: there’s nothing better than shaking out the legs with a few thousand friends over Memorial Day weekend, so it’s only fitting that the race name kicks off with a verb.

What do we do when summer arrives in Madison? We Run Madtown.

[Article written by Focal Flame Photography: http://www.focalflame.com/blog-archive/2017/5/24/run-madtown-whats-in-a-name]