Mercedes-Benz Marathon announces final race in Birmingham

Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 3:16 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2022 at 3:50 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The following information is from officials with Mercedes-Benz Marathon:

Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events, presented by Birmingham Marathon, Inc. and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI), announces its final race weekend to take place in Birmingham Feb. 10-12, 2023. The 21-year partnership with Mercedes-Benz U.S. International has attracted more than 200,000 runners, has helped local charities raise in excess of $5 million dollars and provided more than $60 million in direct economic impact for the Greater Birmingham region. Comprised of a Full Marathon, Half Marathon, Marathon Relay, The Bell Center Children’s Run, Regions Superhero 5K and Kids Marathon presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, each race will still start and finish at Birmingham’s Linn Park, where more than 10,000 runners are expected to participate. Founded in 2001, the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events benefits The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs along with other local charities.

Participants and spectators are invited to celebrate the grand finale of the race in February. Although the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events remains Alabama’s premier running event and boasts the country’s largest Kids Marathon, increases in event production costs and a decline in financial and other resource support have led Birmingham Marathon, Inc. to consider new events and avenues to support local beneficiaries.

“With this being the finale of the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events, we want to say how tremendously thankful we are of all the support we have received from Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, the community and countless sponsors throughout our more than two decades in existence,” said Valerie McLean Cuddy, Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events Founder. “We hope this year will be the biggest and best race weekend we’ve ever put on and we can’t wait to give participants an incredible experience. We hope the future holds plans for other events to come that will benefit The Bell Center.”

A Boston Marathon qualifying race and previous host for U.S. Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials, the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events has offered regional, national and international runners a unique running experience full of Southern hospitality and charm.

“It has been an honor to put our name and faith behind what has become one of the biggest, most talked about races in the southeast,” said Mercedes-Benz US International CEO Michael Göbel. “MBUSI understands how important it is to support our local community. We believe our success is linked with the growth and vitality of those around us. By lending our time and a helping hand to worthy causes like the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events benefiting The Bell Center, their successes will in turn make our community an even better place.”

As the official benefactor of the race, The Bell Center provides crucial early intervention therapy services to help children maximize their unique potential. Each year, The Bell Center’s 16 therapists and dozens of volunteers serve hundreds of families from the Birmingham metro and surrounding areas. The Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend is The Bell Center’s largest fundraiser every year and brought in $175,000 in 2022, with more than $3 million raised specifically for the organization in the race’s history. Many times, The Bell Center, which was founded in 1984, is the first call parents make after they have learned their child has a diagnosis of Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, brain injuries, blindness or more than 100 other genetic diagnoses or delays.

“At The Bell Center, not only do we care deeply for the children we serve, but we embrace our responsibility in building community for people with special needs starting with our children,” said Jeannie Colquett, executive director of The Bell Center. “The Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend gives us an enormous opportunity for everyone to see our children as children first. We’re sad that this is the final Mercedes Marathon Weekend, but The Bell Center will continue well beyond this weekend serving our children and their families and helping them to continue to play an important part in the fabric of our community.”

The Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events includes The Bell Center Children’s Run on Saturday, Feb. 11, where the children from The Bell Center will showcase their individual potential as they cross the official marathon finish line.

“The crowd really looks forward to this part of our event - there isn’t a dry eye among the thousands of spectators when this takes place,” says Cuddy. “Seeing the children walk, run, cycle or be pushed in strollers to that finish line is one of the most rewarding moments for us all. It shows the determination and perseverance of the children and their families.”

The race’s BellRunner program is designed to motivate and support participants who agree to raise $100 per mile for The Bell Center when they run/walk the Marathon, Half Marathon, Relay Marathon or Superhero 5K. The program pairs a participant with a child who is receiving life-changing early intervention therapies at The Bell Center, and the runner/walker will train and raise funds in the name of that child. Many runners say it is an awesome, life-changing experience to dedicate hours of training and focus for a child at risk for developmental delay and then share the race day adventure by wearing a photo of The Bell Center child.

Additionally, other local organizations and individuals can also create teams to run for their own cause. Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend provides an excellent opportunity for charities and organizations to raise funds for a cause without the hassle and expense of hosting their own event. Team members are encouraged to participate in and fundraise at any weekend events that meet their personal abilities, allowing charities to benefit from all events of the weekend.

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Race weekend schedule

Friday, Feb. 10:

Race Expo & Packet Pickup (Boutwell Auditorium - 1930 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd.; Birmingham, 35203) Noon to 7 p.m. The Race Expo is sponsored by Callahan Eye Center & Clinic and is open and free for the public to attend with family friendly and wellness activities to take place. Runner packet pickup is located inside the Expo held Friday, Feb. 10 from noon to 7 p.m. Marathon, Half-Marathon, Relay, 5K and Kids Marathon will pick up on the auditorium stage.

Saturday, Feb. 11:

Race Expo & Packet Pickup (Boutwell Auditorium - 1930 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd.; Birmingham, 35203) 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Regions Superhero 5K (Linn Park - 710 20th St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203) On Saturday, Feb. 11 from 8 to 9 a.m., the Regions Superhero 5K serves as the official kick-off to the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend and offers everyone with a variety of different fitness abilities the chance to be a part of the exciting weekend. Superheroes can walk or run the 5K (3.1 mile) course through downtown Birmingham while helping a great cause and being a part of the marathon experience. Bystanders are sure to see superheroes dressed in their uniforms and capes running and walking with purpose, many taking advantage of the 5K as a warm-up for the marathon. The awards ceremony will take place at 9:30 a.m. inside Boutwell Auditorium.

The Bell Center Children’s Run (Linn Park - 710 20th St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203) From 10 to 11 a.m., The Bell Center Children’s Run will take place with children from The Bell Center crossing the last 50 feet and marathon finish line to receive their Mercedes-Benz medals. The Bell Center Children’s Run is the must-see event of the weekend as it gives participants and bystanders a chance to see the reason behind the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend - to provide not only funding, but hope to the children who are at risk for or have developmental disabilities.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Kids Mercedes-Benz Marathon (Linn Park - 710 20th St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203) From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. following the Bell Center Children’s Run, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama Kids Mercedes-Benz Marathon will take place. As the largest kids marathon in the country boasting 5,400 child participants at its peak, the kids marathon is open to children ages 5 through fifth grade. This is an endurance building program to keep kids active, where they run or walk 25.2 miles before event day and then finish their marathon distance with the final 1 mile completed live the day of the event. Registration for the Kids Marathon closes on Dec. 4 to allow participants time to complete their journey before race day.

Sunday, Feb. 12:

Sunday begins with a non-denominational worship service from 6:15 to 6:45 a.m. led by South Highland Presbyterian Church in Linn Park across from Boutwell Auditorium near the finish line corrals.

The Mercedes-Benz Marathon (26.2 miles), the Mercedes-Benz Half-Marathon (13.1 miles) and the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Relay will start at 7 a.m. at Linn Park (710 20th St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203). The course includes or is adjacent to many sites important to the Civil Rights movement in America and showcases work by prominent 19th and 20th century architects. Starting and ending at Linn Park, the marathon goes through historic downtown Birmingham, through UAB’s campus, from Five Points South through Highland Park, Avondale, Lakeview and back to downtown Birmingham. The half-marathon course is a 13.1 loop from start to finish that the marathon and marathon relay participants complete twice. Starting at the same time, the Mercedes-Benz Marathon Relay allows for teams of 4 to 5 participants to share the full 26.2 distance of the marathon.

All events have fully staffed and equipped fluid stations along the course courtesy of Coca-Cola United Bottling Company. Clearly marked miles and digital clocks will be at the beginning of each mile and toilets will be available at every water station. Other items and course support such as refreshments, cheerleaders and live entertainment can also be found all along the course, with more updates to come closer to race day.

The weekend will conclude with the Jim ‘N Nick’s Post Race Block Party at Boutwell Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., where runners will be rewarded for their hard work and training and can celebrate with family and friends. The party will have food from Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ and a beer garden from Adams Beverages, along with live entertainment, massages and more. It will also be the location for participant awards, gear and merchandise. The awards ceremony will begin at approximately 10:15 a.m. when official results start becoming available.

Mercedes-Benz Marathon Weekend of Events is fully backed by dozens of gracious sponsors, which allows 100 percent of race profits to be directly donated to The Bell Center. For those who aren’t runners, there are opportunities for major event sponsors, participation at the event expo, inclusion in the participant race bags and mile-support along the courses on race day.

To register and to find out more information about each race, course maps or volunteer opportunities, visit this website.

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