First-time Boston Marathon qualifying race in Youngstown

By Sydney Stalnecker

Throughout October, Youngstown State University students can expect to see many people running through the streets of Youngstown.  Races of all different lengths will occur nearly every weekend within the next month.

The Youngstown Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K is Sunday, Oct. 24. This will be the first year the marathon is classified as a Boston qualifier.

Mark Lipinsky, Youngstown Marathon race director, has been involved with the marathon for five years. He started as the logistics director in 2017, the first year of the marathon. He became the race director in 2019.

“This is our fifth year for the Youngstown Marathon,” Lipinsky said. “This will be our first official year running it as a [Boston qualifier] for anybody out there looking for a good race to make it into Boston.”

Overall participation is expected to decrease by 200-500 runners this year. As of Sept. 7, 2021, there were about 100 people signed up for the marathon, 200 for the half-marathon and 80 for the 5K. Many races regionally and nationally had to push back their race dates due to COVID-19, among those races are the Boston and Cleveland marathons. The Boston Marathon will occur Monday, Oct. 11 and the Cleveland Marathon will occur Oct. 24. 

Any time within the acceptable range will allow a participant to qualify for the 2022 Boston Marathon. For those aged 18-34, men must run the marathon in less than three hours, and women must complete it in less than three hours and 30 minutes. Qualifying race times must be achieved either on or after Sept. 1, 2019.

According to the Boston Athletic Association, Boston qualifier courses must be approved by USA Track and Field and the Association for International Marathons and Distance Races. The course must be exactly 26.2 miles, three people must be signed up, the event must be advertised prior to race day and run outdoors.

Josh Boggs, the vice president for the marathon, and Lipinsky created guidelines for races after the initial shutdown in March 2020. They’ve been hosting races since July 2020. They don’t expect COVID-19 to interfere with race day in 2021.

“As far as operationally, being outside and with the vaccination rates that we have locally, we are pretty comfortable with being able to go out and run their race like they normally would,” Lipinsky said.

The course of the marathon will run through campus, but the half-marathon and 5K will not. As the race director, Lipinsky designed the course for the marathon, half-marathon and 5K courses himself.

“We close a single lane on Fifth Avenue and a single lane on Wick Avenue, we close Lincoln [Avenue] and then we close the service road to the north of the WATTS and the stadium,” Lipinsky said. “We also close a lane on Federal Street and Commerce.”

“As far as a marathon course, it’s fair but challenging it’s definitely something you can accomplish.  I would definitely recommend training,” Lipinsky said. “Overall, the course is kind of rolling hills, so there is a little bit of elevation that you’re gonna get throughout the course.”

There’s a 6-hour time limit for the full marathon.  However, if a participant needs more time, some volunteers may stay and cheer the racer on until the finish line. 

“We did have someone in 2019 go over that time limit, because of that we had some volunteers that were willing to stay out and help her finish,” Lipinsky said. “We kept the finish line open, but a lot of the police support had to leave.”

It is not recommended that anyone run a marathon with five or fewer weeks of training. However, YSU students and community members can get involved in other ways. The half-marathon and 5K are available options. 

“If anybody’s considering the full, but isn’t sure about their training, our half-marathon is definitely our biggest part of the event,” Lipinsky said. “It’s a much nicer course, it’s a little bit more friendly.”

The 5K race will start at 8:15 a.m., 15 minutes after the other two races, and is a good option for beginner runners.

“We have a 5K, which is a great opportunity for people to come out and just walk or run if you want to participate in the event itself.  You get a really cool T-shirt and a really nice medal along with a great afterparty that we host right at the finish line of the event.”

For those who don’t like to run, anyone is welcome to volunteer on the day of the races. The volunteer sign-up sheet is located on the website.

“We’re always looking for volunteers to help give directions to runners out on the course,” Lipinsky said. “We’re looking for people to pass out water at water tables.”

To ensure the safety of runners, Youngstown police will direct traffic while volunteers guide runners through the course.

Those who participate in any race will contribute to the profits, which will be donated to local nonprofits. Volunteers, who help make the race possible, will be supporting the cause as well.

“This year we are going to be giving money to the Youngstown Blue Coats, the Rich Center for Autism, Gleaners Food Bank and Cadence Care Network, which, again, are all local nonprofits that have a direct impact in the Mahoning Valley,” Lipinsky said.

To sign up for any of the races visit Second Sole in Boardman for a paper sign-up sheet, or sign-up online at