FORT WORTH -- The weather warmed up Thursday, and running buddies Tracy Walker and Chris Shipman took advantage. They're gearing up for the Cowtown Marathon next weekend.

'As long as I've lived in Fort Worth, I've always supported it,' Walker said.

This year, that support is swelling to record levels.

'[The] marathon's up 43 percent from last year,' said executive director Heidi Swartz. 'But we're ready for them.'

Two of the races, the Ultra Marathon (that's 31 miles) and the kids' 5k, capped out and Swartz had to add more spots. But by next week, she expects all races except the adult 5k and 10k to be full. That's a first for the organization, which will have put on 36 races as of next weekend.

The surge is due, in part, to the December cancellation of the Dallas Marathon because of bad weather.

Those extra runners now also mean 50 additional medical personnel on hand, more fluid on hand at fluid stations, and there will be more wave starts for the races than usual.

'We don't want it to be overcrowded,' Swartz said. 'We want them to be able to run, and we want them to have fun.'

Walker and Shipman say the more the merrier, and the extra runners won't turn them off.

'Oh no, no,' Walker said. 'They've done a great job of setting up a course that handles the crowd really well.'

'We can't wait,' Shipman said. 'We enjoy our friends from Dallas.'

The more participants there are, the more Cowtown is able to give to its charity, which provides brand-new running shoes to children and trains them how to run.

The marathon weekend is Feb. 21-23.


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