Outdoors Blog

Greenbelt closures force Famous Idaho Potato Marathon onto streets, hurt sign-ups

Boise's flood-fighting parks and paths

The Boise Greenbelt and parks like Marianne Williams are protecting homes by absorbing flood flows.(Rocky Barker)
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The Boise Greenbelt and parks like Marianne Williams are protecting homes by absorbing flood flows.(Rocky Barker)

Flooding closures on the Boise River Greenbelt have sent the organizers of one of Boise’s largest running events scrambling to redesign their race routes and likely will result in a significant dip in entries.

The 39th annual Famous Idaho Potato Marathon and its related fun runs — a half-marathon, 10k and 5k — are set for May 20. The marathon and half-marathon begin at Lucky Peak State Park and usually are run primarily on the Greenbelt. But with most of the riverfront pathway closed, much of the race will take to the streets this year.

“Our big town seems really small when it needs to have 26 miles in it,” said Allison Evaro, event coordinator for the Treasure Valley Family YMCA. “It was maybe four weeks of trying to figure it out.”

Extensive erosion from the Boise River at flood stage has forced officials to remove the south bridge leading to Plantation Island along the Boise Greenbelt in Garden City. On Monday, April 3, 2017 Inland Crane Co. was hired to hoist the bridge of

The course maps were completed late last week. The marathon and half-marathon still will begin at Lucky Peak, while the 5k and 10 will start at Albertsons headquarters on ParkCenter Boulevard. All races will end at Albertsons headquarters instead of the traditional finish in Ann Morrison Park — also because of flooding.

The event, which serves as a qualifier for the 2018 Boston Marathon, usually attracts 3,200-plus runners across the four divisions, but it never has faced an issue like this with its routes. The turnout is expected to plummet to around 2,100.

Open registration concludes on May 14; late registration closes on May 19.

Organizers have made changes in the past to accommodate short Greenbelt closures but didn’t anticipate the decision by Boise, Eagle, Garden City and Ada County to close most of the path this spring.

“It really eliminated a lot of options out there for us,” Evaro said. “We were not expecting to not use it at all.”

Organizers will have additional cones, signs and flaggers to handle the new routes and are working to educate neighbors about the impact. The marathon will do an out and back inside the Surprise Valley neighborhood and run on the historic stretch of Warm Springs Avenue.

The plan is to get the course recertified as a Boston qualifier. Evaro also had to tweak the course in ways that maintained the race’s billing as a fairly flat run.

“It is pretty, and it’s not hilly,” she said.

Flooding likely will be a problem for many event organizers this year. The YMCA already has been warned that its Y-Not Triathlon in Esther Simplot Park could be affected, and it’s not until July 15.

Here are the highlights and perils of a bike ride along the eastern Boise River Greenbelt, the only extended stretch that was dry and open when the river was high and this video was made in April 2017.

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