With just over 500 participants the first ever Dawn of the Dunes Gary Marathon, half marathon and 5k got underway in Marquette Park Sunday morning. It was a chilly start but runners were excited to get going.
"I thought I'd get out. Nothing else to do on a Sunday morning," said runner Harley Tom.
"We just wanted to get in on the race and make it part of our tradition as a family," said 5K runner Melissa Gronendyke.
Once the center of a booming steel industry, Gary has been on a steady decline for decades. It does not seem like a natural place to host a marathon. But organizers say that's exactly why they decided to launch this race to show people the other face of Gary.
"At first people thought I was crazy. 'A marathon in Gary, are you sure?' 'Yeah, you have to come, you have to come run it and see what's really there,'" said Tom Taylor, Cause to Compete.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says her hope is the race will bring more people to Gary's lakefront.
"We're building ambassadors to go out, to say to others, 'I went to Gary, had a race, whether it was a marathon, a half marathon, a 5K and we had a wonderful time,'" she said.
The response from runners was exactly what organizers wanted to hear.
"We live here in Miller, so it's great to see a lot of people run around the area," runner Doug Finck said. "It's a beautiful area. It's great to see something in our hometown."
"Awesome course. Beautiful, fast, great time. I look forward to doing it every year," said runner Chris Swisteck.
"I think it was wonderful," runner Anne Murray-Docter said. "It was organized very well for a first year. The setting is beautiful, the parking was great."
The hope, of course, is that enough people will be excited about this race that they will want to do it again next year so that this can become a yearly event.