After announcing last year that the U.S. 10K Classic would be held on Memorial Day this year – it had been on hiatus since 2010 – race founder Don Whitney now says he is pulling the plug on the event for good.
In an email sent Friday to U.S. 10K Classic board members, Whitney wrote that the race has been “officially retired” because of the weak economy and “unforeseen obstacles.” He wrote that a two-year attempt to find adequate funding for the race “wasn’t meant to be.”
“It’s been a great ride, but I now need to see what God has in store for me in this next chapter,” wrote Whitney, the president of Smyrna-based Corporate Sports Unlimited.
In June 2012, Whitney announced that he planned to bring the race back on Memorial Day 2013, a departure from the Labor Day event that was held from 1994 until 2010, when it was called off due to declining sponsorships. Race officials said they were planning to move its 6.2-mile course from the traditional route of following Cobb Parkway between Cumberland Mall and Six Flags White Water, but never announced where.
According to its website, the event raised more than $5 million over the years for organizations that help children. The groups included the Boy Scouts of America, the Boys and Girls Club and MUST Ministries.
While it supported dozens of organizations, the event was focused on funding the World Children’s Center, a project Whitney founded that was designed to be built over a 10-year period, eventually housing 800 children in a 710-acre community in Tallapoosa.
The race, which featured runners from all over the world, became a popular draw for Cobb County, claiming more than a $45 million boost to the county’s economy over 17 years. Organizers said it had more than 16,000 entrants in its final year, which was the most it had seen in years. At times, up to 100,000 spectators came to watch.
Along with running, it featured cycling, wheelchair and inline skating races. It has also included ancillary events over the holiday weekend, like auctions and benefit concerts featuring entertainers such as Jeff Foxworthy.
After the race announced a hiatus in 2011, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin proposed partnering with Southern Polytechnic and Life universities to host a 5-or-10K Labor Day race that would go from one of the universities, to the Marietta Square and back to the other school. But like Whitney’s idea to move his race to Labor Day, those plans never came through.
On Friday, Tumlin said other Labor Day races quickly sprung up in other parts of Metro Atlanta to draw runners away from Cobb.
“We’re disappointed,” Tumlin said after hearing the news of the U.S. 10K Classic’s demise. “It had a positive impact to have all those people end up at White Water.”
But Tumlin said the city has gotten by without the jolt the road race provided. The Art in the Park festival, held on the Square over Labor Day weekend, saw very little drop-off in attendance when it didn’t have the race to bring people to town.
“From Smyrna to Cobb County to Marietta, all three of us will miss that, but we’re all adjusting,” he said.
Repeated attempts to reach Whitney by phone and email were unsuccessful Friday.