LOWELL | As an avid runner, Frank Johnson and his buddies have discussed some of the racing limitations of living in Northwest Indiana.
Chief among them, it's tough to train through the winter without having an ultimate goal. For those who prefer more than just a typical 5K, that means a marathon.
So Johnson, of Schererville, formed Action Sports and Fitness and established a few local races over the past couple years. He's race director of the Foxwood 5K in Schererville, the Dirty Red 10K at Lemon Lake, and a new 10-mile race in Cedar Lake.
Johnson wanted to start with shorter races before going all out.
Now he's ready and has scheduled Northwest Indiana's only 26.2-mile race. The Crossroads of Indiana Marathon is set for April 3, with the start/finish area at Freedom Park in Lowell.
"Three years ago I started with a little 5K to get my feet wet," Johnson said. "And in the last year we did three races to try to figure it out without jumping into something big.
"The marathon was my goal from day one."
Johnson approached the Lowell Parks and Recreation Department for assistance. He said superintendent Tom Sullivan jumped on board right away.
"I had the whole route figured out, but not a start/finish area," Johnson said. "So I went to a board meeting, then Tom called me and said, 'Let's do it. We'll help you any way you want.' They're really cooperative."
The course heads north out of Lowell on Cline Avenue, wraps around Cedar Lake beginning on Parrish Avenue and Morse Street, heads south for a loop around Lake Dale before cruising back south to the finish.
Johnson regularly runs in the area, and designed the course along with Jeff Mescal of Hebron.
"It's almost all country roads," Johnson said. "It's pretty flat, with a few rolling hills in the middle of it."
There will also be a half marathon, and Johnson said there are already more than 100 registered runners for the two races.
Soon a blast email will be sent to over 200,000 users of the website active.com, a racing registration site. He's expecting runners from throughout the Midwest, and perhaps from around the nation particularly from serious marathoners who have a lifetime goal of running a marathon in all 50 states.
Johnson, a Walgreens store manager in Hobart, expects most of his free time to be consumed with race preparations over the next few months.
"Everybody who talks to me, that's the first thing they ask about," he said. "I'm doing whatever I can do trying to market it. We always run in the winter but there's nothing to train for, now we have something."
This week marks the beginning of an 18-week training program for the Crossroads of Indiana Marathon.
Lowell runner Adam Hudak, 30, has run five marathons plus one Ironman Triathlon. He's had to travel a long distance to race, or trudge through the heat that has hit the Chicago Marathon three of the last four years.
Hudak registered for the race and says he'll be glad to sleep in his own bed the night before a nearby race.
"I'm really excited and I've been telling every runner in the town of Lowell that they have to come out for the first marathon," said Hudak, a former Valparaiso University kicker who now coaches on the Lowell football staff.
"It's a great idea. There are a lot of country roads, and people from the bigger towns might like to run out there once in a while and see a different aspect of Northwest Indiana. It's a good course. I can't wait."