The end of the Marathon to Marathon

July 23, 2009: Welcome sign for Marathon at the south end of former IA 390.

The Marathon to Marathon has become the latest casualty of an aging and depopulating rural Iowa. The last race was last weekend.

While it may sound dramatic to describe the end of a 22-year event that way, it is none the less true. Its demise is summed up in this quote in the Sioux City Journal* article:

“When we all started, we were all in our 40s and low 50s, and now we are in our mid-60s, 70s and I had a committee of 15 to 16 people and now we are down to 6 to 8. We had young families with kids so it wasn’t any problem getting help, but families moved away … It’s a small town to start with, we just have run out of volunteers to be real honest with you.”

“We have run out of volunteers.” That is the scariest sentence one can say or read when it comes to community cohesiveness and social infrastructure. (Why yes, I am finally getting around to reading Bowling Alone, but I was waving a flag on this more than a decade ago.)

As much as they hate to admit it, the Baby Boomers are getting old. The 40-somethings of the mid-1990s are now the 60-somethings of the late 2010s, and a sufficient replacement cohort isn’t there. And I do mean literally not there; Laurens-Marathon High School just graduated its last class because of declining enrollment.

There’s any number of events/groups/what-have-you across Iowa — across rural America — that simply stopped for lack of new blood. (I think of the Amity Ice Cream Social, although it’s come back in a slightly different form.) Now, the Marathon to Marathon is one of them.

*I needed to blog about this ASAP, because the SCJ and all the Lee papers are getting a redesign “to emphasize mobile platforms” Wednesday and the only question is how horrible it will be.

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