Ashland, WI (Northland's NewsCenter) - The Whistlestop Marathon attracts runners from across the nation to partake in this ever–growing event.
Every fall for the past fourteen years the quiet, bay-side town of Ashland, Wisconsin has come to life to brave the frigid winds of Lake Superior and welcome—with open arms—a virtual army of marathon runners.
"It has a little bit more of a small town, homey atmosphere and I really liked it." Says Susie Weber, first time "Whistlestopper."
This year's Whistlestop marathon was no different, whether you're referring to the scenic view of Wisconsin in the grips of Fall, the chill lake–effect weather, or the record numbers of runners from across the nation.
Since its humble beginnings fourteen years ago, the Whistlestop Marathon has been considered a signature event for the Ashland community.
Mary McPhetridge, Executive Director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce recalls the first year Ashland hosted the marathon.
"It actually took off where they thought it would just be a handful of racers, and that first year it was about 300. Then it's grown exponentially every year."
Though many had grand visions for its future, no one foresaw just how big the event would eventually become, or just how significant of an impact it would have in the running community.
"A lot of people, a lot of marathoners these days like to do 50 marathons, or one marathon per state, so we see people from all over the country, we see people from Canada. It's fun to hear that your shirt shows up at the Boston Marathon or Chicago Marathon," says McPhetridge.
Now in it's fourteenth year, Whistlestop seems to have a little bit of something for everyone, whether that's a handful of smaller races or the entertainment that comes with marathon weekend.
"We've always had a 5k and a 10k, we actually have a Whistle–tot, which is a toddler run. We have. . . almost twenty brewers, so a lot of different microbrews. And then there's a jazz band, and then later on The Dweebs play so it's a big party." says McPhetridge.
Still, it's the warm welcome outsiders feel from a community all too often buried in feet of snow that keeps people from across the nation coming back year after year.
"I'm not a star, but I love it, and I'll do another one and who knows, maybe even this one next year!" said Weber.
And just because the marathon itself is over, it doesn't mean the fun is, too. The "Brews and Blues" Festival will be held in the main tent from 7:30 til 1 a.m.