Erie Marathon at Presque Isle set for Sunday with smaller field due to pandemic – GoErie.com

Erie Marathon at Presque Isle set for Sunday with smaller field due to pandemic  GoErie.com


After a one-year layoff, the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle will be off and running again on Sunday.

However, the same pandemic that forced to cancellation of the race last year has made the 2021 version of the event much smaller. The race’s field of runners is only about one-third the size of the 2019 event.

The 2021 marathon will start at 7 a.m. at Beach 1 at Presque Isle State Park on Sunday. It will consist of the usual two laps around the entire park, a distance of 26.2 miles.

The PI Marathon, which is hosted by the Erie Runner’s Club and in its 47th year, will once again be a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. Advertised as “flat, fast and fun,” the marathon is extremely popular because of Presque Isle’s flat, scenic course, and draws runners from near and far who hope to qualify for the legendary Boston race, on April 18, 2022.


Although the runners and organizers are thrilled that the marathon will be taking place this year, the numbers will be down significantly from the usual 2,000-plus that have participated in recent years.

“We expect to have around 650 runners this year, ages 16 through 79, with people from 38 to 40 states, and some from other countries, including a contingent from Chile,” said Dave Comi, president of the Erie Runners Club, who along with Suzy Carstater is co-director of the PI Marathon.

The ongoing virus situation has been the main reason for the lower numbers, Comi said.

“The numbers are down because restrictions didn’t allow us to open registration until June rather than the usual Jan. 1, which made it difficult for people to plan. Plus, travel restrictions, particularly from Canada, and virus fears have hampered participation.”

Comi said that the marathon usually has a large number of Canadian participants, but that several who had hoped to attend were unable to because of the border restrictions.

“We will be getting some Canadians who will be flying in, which is not restricted, but around 70 percent of the ones we would normally get will not be able to come this year,” Comi said.


Comi said that the race will abide by all the pandemic-related rules and protocols.

“We’re doing everything the park requests, and we’re providing everything we can, including individual water and food,” he said. “There will be very little contact with people, the runners won’t lineup until a few minutes before the start, and we’ll have them lineup, according to their individual pace, which will reduce bunching and bumping. Also, there will be no grand award ceremony at the end.”

Other than the start, the race will be conducted in its usual manner.

“We will have 13 water stops with around 170 volunteers, between registration, start and finish lines, water stops, road marshals and everything else,” Comi said.

Runners will park in the Waldameer parking lot and walk down the hill to the starting line at Beach 1.

“The Waldameer people will turn the lights on in the parking lot at 5 a.m.,” Comi said.

Winners of the 2019 marathon were Israel Merkle, from Akron, who also won in 2018, and Kristen Johnson, a Canadian, from St. Catharines, Ontario. Merkle’s winning time in 2019 was 2 hours, 27 minutes, 47 seconds, while Johnson’s time was 2:54:32. Neither is registered this year.

Merkle’s 2018 winning time of 2:24:42 is the PI Marathon overall record, while Laura Kaulen holds the female record at 2:42:12, set in 2014.

The Erie Marathon, which began in 1974, has been held at Presque Isle since 2002; prior to that it would snake through the city, lap around Presque Isle, and end up at Veterans Stadium.

“We really missed it last year,” Comi said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to make it a great marathon, but the safest and also the cleanest; we’ll clean it up real well afterward.”