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L.A. Marathon petition drive is off and running

June 5, 2009 | 11:02 pm

Start of the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon.

The local running community is taking a creative step with an online petition to move the Los Angeles Marathon back to a more traditional Sunday in March.

Launched by race organizers on Thursday evening, within 24 hours the drive had accumulated about one quarter as many virtual signatures as finishers in this year's May event.*

"The running community earnestly wants this on a Sunday early in the year because they can't risk the heat issues," said Howard Sunkin, Senior Vice President of the McCourt Group, which bought the event in 2008. This year's race was moved twice and eventually held on Memorial Day, much closer to L.A.'s hot summer temperatures. Another change would require City Council approval and has been traditionally opposed by local churches that hold Sunday services.

The petition is mentioned on the marathon's website, but there has been no formal effort to publicize it. Sunkin seemed impressed by how quickly word spread through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. "It's quite effective," he observed.

While the petition lists a target of 5,000 digital signatures, Sunkin said there is no formal goal. At the current pace, the petition could easily eclipse that number over the weekend. This year's race had 17,307 entries and more than 14,000 finishers.

A City Council committee unanimously passed a resolution a few weeks ago to make the switch back to March, but a final council hearing must be held before officials can amend the contract. In the mean time, runners are speaking out online.

"We just want to be able to communicate the position of the runners who participate in the L.A. Marathon," added Sunkin. "The best public comment is through the public hearing process."

Asked about any marquee names on the petition, which includes some local race directors, coaches and prominent runners, Sunkin demurred. "I think everybody's name is equally important. Anybody who runs a race for 26.2 miles deserves their voice to be heard."

-- Adam Rose

Photo: Start of the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times.

* UPDATE: An earlier version of this story indicated there were about 7,100 participants in 2009. That was the total for the affiliated Bike Tour. The marathon had 17,307 entries and more than 14,000 finishers.