Although life in the Mad River Valley moves at a slower pace, 10 years ago, Warren residents Dori Ingalls and Ian Sweet were quick to say yes to organizing and founding the Mad Marathon, Mad Half and Mad Relays each July.
The event has attracted runners and their families from all 50 states and 34 countries and has been named one of Runner’s World Magazine’s “Top Ten Bucket List Marathons in the World” three times, a Vermont Chamber of Commerce Vermont Top Ten Summer Event for three years, Race Rave Bucket List along with several other awards.
The inaugural Mad Marathon was run in July 2011. Members of the marketing committee of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce approached founding and current race director Ingalls to stage a running event or marathon during the weekend following July 4, 2011. It was intended and continues to be a deliberate economic shot in the arm during a week when The Valley’s visitor count is lower. Ten years later it was still working. The world has taken notice of these races. In an era full of Sprint Triathlons and “Tough Mudder” style events, the longevity and vitality of the Mad Marathon is noteworthy.
Then the road got bumpy, Ingalls explained. Unable to seek grants or to offer tax advantages to donors, the for-profit version of the Mad Marathon, Mad Half & Relays was totally dependent on registration fees and a limited number of sponsorships.
“With the sudden COVID-19-related cancellation of the 2020, 10th anniversary in-person races and the near total cessation of this year’s revenue streams, the survival of the enterprise was at stake. Same expenses, 95% less income. It was not a good combination,” Ingalls reported.
“The situation was so dire, then when we were ultimately found to be ineligible for federal or state assistance, permanently canceling the Mad Marathon, Mad Half & Relays seemed to be the only responsible course of action,’ she said.
“A coalition of runners, running legends, the chamber, community leaders and friends recognized that the Mad Marathon races are a critically important community asset worth preserving. In response we created a new nonprofit, 501(c)(3) named Mad Valley Sports,” Ingalls reported.
The objective and purpose of Mad Valley Sports is to promote health and wellness in the Mad River Valley through support, operation and management of sporting-related educational, recreational and social events including the Mad Marathon, Mad Half & Relays.
A committed and experienced board of directors joined the team: Dori Ingalls, president; Robert Laird, MD, vice president; Ian Sweet, treasurer; Mark Lichterman, JD, MPH, secretary; Bart Yasso, trustee; Kate Williams, trustee; Edward Read, trustee.
This year’s Mad Marathon, Mad Half & Relays was moved from July to September 12 and is restructuring with Ingalls remaining as race director along with Sweet as assistant. In 2022 the race will return to the Sunday following July 4, therefore, July 10.
“The goal is to grow this extraordinary community weekend of events along with adding more recreational opportunities in the Mad River Valley, the wonderful place we call home,’’ Ingalls said.
"The Mad Marathon epitomizes what the Mad River Valley is all about. Runners and their friends and families are welcomed to a race destination that is unlike any other. It truly is America's most beautiful marathon. The Mad River Valley offers spectacular scenery, an authentic vibe and a genuine sense of community that combine to exude a palpable sense of place. The marathon is perfectly scaled to the area is important to our community both economically and spiritually,” added Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce.