Rising costs bring end to popular Niantic race

The region has lost a really good race.

The Niantic Bay Half Marathon, which in recent years has attracted more than a 1,000 runners each September to Rocky Neck State Park, will not be held this year.

Rising costs and a field that has not in increased in size, forced organizers to pull the plug on the race for this year, according to race director John Bysiewicz.

"It was a very expensive event in terms of the state park fees, the police, the tents," he said this week. "It was a difficult event to make financially viable."

In addition, he said major sponsors have been declining in recent years. He said the fixed costs totaled $20,000 and that was before race day expenses such as food and entertainment.

"People enjoyed the race and I enjoyed doing it. We wouldn't be having this conversation if we had 1,500 runners but we've only been getting 1,000," he said.

Fees from 500 extra runners would have helped offset the fixed costs and declining sponsorship.

That said, I have to wonder if the spectacular success of the Surftown Half Marathon and 5k last weekend in Misquamicut may have played a role in the demise of Niantic Bay. That race drew more than 2,000 runners in just its third year.

Not may people will run half marathons on back to back weekends and many may have opted instead for Surftown, which is sponsored by the Hartford Marathon Foundation and run along a scenic, fast course in Misquamicut and was tied to a fall festival.

Bysiewicz said the decision to not stage the race was made jointly with the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, its main sponsor.

He and Bruce MacDonald, the chamber's director of communications, added there is a possibility the race could be revived in the future.

MacDonald said that while the race was a great event, the chamber has limited staff and resources and has been busy this year sponsoring an expanded Home Show and a new Health Show.

Niantic Bay started out as a marathon in 2001 and moved to a half marathon and 5K in 2007.

Bysiewicz, who directs races all around the state through his company JB Sports, always put on a quality, well run event each year with a scenic course, food and entertainment.

Hopefully it will be back in the near future.

On the schedule

The 33rd annual Lisbon Fall Festival 3.2-mile road race will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. beginning at Lisbon Town Hall on Route 169. Registration and information is at www.lisbonfallfestival.org. The entry fee is a bargain at just $10 before the race and $15 on race day.

The Bound for the Sound 5K and 10K will be Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8:30 a.m. in Old Lyme. Formerly known as the Artistry in Motion race, it starts and finishes at the foot of Hartford Avenue at Sound View Beach. There is also a 1-mile fun run at 8 a.m. Registration and information is available at www.lolef.org.

Joe Wojtas is The Day's running columnist


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