Steven Marks is always thinking about how to make the Akron Marathon better

Running is as popular as ever in Northeast Ohio and one of the reasons for the surge in popularity is the creation of the Akron Marathon. Launched in 2003 by Steven and Jeannine Marks, along with the help of a small staff and thousands of volunteers, it’s become an event that appeals to more than just runners.

People volunteer to help with the race and the logistics that go along with it. They line the streets of the course to cheer runners on and they travel to Canal Park to watch them cross the finish line.

“A lot of people have called it Akron’s holiday,” says Marks, who when he’s not working as chairman of Akron Marathon Charitable Corp. serves as founder and CEO at Main Street Gourmet.

The race has grown to become a series of three races, which you can read more about in this month’s Building Stronger Communities. While there is a finish line when you run a road race, Marks says there is no finish line in terms of the evolution of the race.

“It’s important for us to be cutting edge and do things that haven’t been done before,” Marks says. “One year everybody that ran the marathon got a free pair of shoes. We have a blue line that goes 26 miles throughout the city. The names of the runners are on their bibs. We’re always trying to push the envelope. If you’re not growing, you’re dying and we want to be able to sustain this.”

A jewel of a park

Speaking of Canal Park, the ballpark has a new field and an exciting summer to look forward to.

The Akron RubberDucks will play host to the 2016 Eastern League All-Star Game on July 13. It provides an opportunity to appreciate both the on-field performance of the RubberDucks, as well as the great sense of community that Canal Park has brought to downtown Akron since it first opened its gates back in 1997.

The franchise has funneled a number of memorable players to the Cleveland Indians over the past two decades and provided countless memorable experiences for families across the region.

Baseball fans have the opportunity to experience baseball at all levels in Northeast Ohio and Canal Park is a big reason why. ●

Mark Scott is senior associate editor at Smart Business Akron/Canton