GARY | When Portage native Tom Taylor told friends he was planing to hold a marathon in Marquette Park, he got some strange looks.
"They said, 'You mean Gary? Are you crazy?'" Taylor related. "But I knew there is a lot more to Gary than what most people think."
Taylor has been an avid distance runner since his cross country days at Portage High School and Indiana University. He fondly remembers running and training with his high school team at Marquette Park, and how the lake shore setting brought him back just for the sake of recreational runs.
Having since returned to the area after living on the West Coast, Taylor and his running company "Cause 2 Compete" approached Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson about hosting "Dawn of the Dunes," which on Oct. 27, will be the city's first-ever marathon.
"We're at no means trying to compete with the Chicago Marathon," said Taylor, who hopes for a turnout of 500 for the marathon as well as a strong showing for the event's half-marathon, 5K and fun run for children.
"What we're aiming for is a strong first run, maybe iron out some of the kinks, then hopefully it will take off in the years to come."
Taylor and city officials were on hand at City Hall Tuesday for a news conference to formally announce "Dawn of the Dunes" less than two weeks away.
"We've had the registration site for some time, but we wanted to make sure we had everything lined up such as approval for the course routes before we made an official push," said the city's director or communication, Chelsea Whittington.
Gary Police Commander Pete Sormaz will head the special events committee that will provide security.
"There will be an increased presence of uniformed officers," said Sormaz, who acknowledged the Boston Marathon attack earlier this year still plays on people's minds.
"We'll have bomb sniffing dogs, there will be screening of bags, and we're going to canvas the area with undercover police," Sormaz said. "I can't go into too much detail about these covert operations, but these (undercover) officers will be a part of the crowd and will have their eyes open."
The marathon will consist of two loops in and around Marquette Park -- the half marathon will be one loop.
"When I came back, I was really impressed with what they did at Marquette Park," Taylor said of recent renovations. "It's more beautiful than ever."
Runners may also register on the race's website (dunesmarathon.com) to be a part of any charity team to raise money for the Gary Parks Department.
"We hope to open up more pools for next summer," Whittington said.