Lennie Mahler, Deseret News
Half marathon participants pass Westminster Avenue on 1100 East in Salt Lake City. Saturday, April 17, 2010. Lennie Mahler, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Even if the Salt Lake Marathon's new owners can't meet the city's deadline of next Tuesday, there is a movement among runners to race anyway.

"I am sick and tired of these big promoters coming into town, making money off us, and we don't get anything in return," said Rob Lee, who signed up for the half marathon along with a couple of other friends. "If they can't do it, we're going to run it anyway."

Runners are frustrated by the lack of accountability among those in charge or affiliated with the nine-year event. So rather than be held hostage by negotiating or finger-pointing, a number of runners are talking to local running businesses, as well as charity organizations, and vowing to run the distances they signed up for unofficially.

"I've talked to a few people, some businesses, and everyone thinks it's a great idea," said Lee, who also ran the half marathon last year. Lee has created an email to coordinate the effort to take back the race: [email protected]

Other runners have posted on the marathon's Facebook page that they intend to show up and run — with or without an official organizer.

Lee is a little worried too many people will show up because he has no interest in becoming a race director.

"I don't wan to have to get permits or anything," he said. "I just want to go out and run."

A number of runners, especially those from outside Utah, are frustrated that active.com continues to collect registrations for the race without even a warning.

Several of those who have already signed up or who have run it in the past said they've received emails from active.com offering discounts if they sign up by the end of February.

"I just got one last week," said Lee.

And on Friday, a message went out over Twitter offering half-price half-marathon entry fees for the Salt Lake Half Marathon through Swaggle.

One suggestion from runners to the new owners is to focus on what matters: running. They don't need a lot of "fluff" in order to feel good about the event.

"We just want to run," said Lee. "We don't need to be entertained."

Hank Zemola, whose company Special Events Management is handling the permits, said he appreciated the effort of the runners.

"I'm not surprised," said Zemola, a longtime runner. "That's how it would be in our market here in Chicago. People love to run; they're passionate about it, and they like to support these things."

Zemola is confident they'll be able to meet the Tuesday deadline set by Salt Lake officials, but he's disappointed there is a perception that his company and U.S. Road Sports are just new incarnations of Devine Racing.

"I'm the sole owner of my company," he said of the business that stages about 100 events each year, including 40 races or runs. "There is nothing close to us with Devine — period. We're passionate about the events we do, the causes they represent and the runners who participate."

Peter Handy, owner of U.S. Road Sports, said he loves the idea.

"That's really the core of what this is all about anyway," said Handy. "To go train to run a marathon; that's a gigantic commitment. Not everybody is born with a runner's body. When you stand at a finish line, at any given marathon … you're looking at everyday people who've spent a ton of time training to run that race."

Like Zemola, he's confident they'll meet the deadlines, but added that should the city or other entities deny the permits, he may join the runners in their "race."

"I would say to them, fantastic," he said. "Maybe I'll be there at the finish line, and I'll do some makeshift medal and I'll hand it to them myself. … But I really do believe we're going to have everything we need."

He's so confident, he offered to talk directly with runners who are concerned.

"If they want to contact me directly, they can email me," said Handy, who can be reached at [email protected]. "I will communicate with as many runners as I can. I'm not trying to start a runners' riot, but I appreciate their spirit for wanting to run the race, and I'm hoping it won't be necessary for them to run it on their own. I'm hoping it's all going to work out fine."

While officials work to meet the permitting deadlines, runners locally and outside Utah are deciding whether or not — and just how — they'll run the races they signed up for months ago.

The mayor's office has fielded calls from runners frustrated with the lack of information as many have not only signed up and engaged in training for the races, but have also reserved hotel rooms, purchased flights and planned vacations around the race.

Sue Mantyla paid for the marathon in October. She was disappointed to read a few weeks later that the race director had stepped down and the volunteers had gone with him leaving the race without leadership or people to plan.

"I've run it twice," said Mantyla, who is a member of Marathon Maniacs and signed up because she tries to do a marathon each month. "This is a local race, and I really don't want to get on a plane or be in a hotel room by myself. Utah has some great local marathons. And this is the Olympic City; we should have a great race."

She said she planned to get some of her running friends and run the race on April 21 anyway, but she'd definitely join forces with other runners to help create an unofficial race.

Lee said he welcomes help, suggestions and company, no matter what official course of action is taken.