In 1999, the making of a world-class running marathon in Akron had begun, but the idea for the event was seeded in 1985 when Akron businessman and community leader Steve Marks ran his first marathon in Columbus. That experience gave him a first-hand view of the potential for a sporting event to boost community pride, involvement and unity, while also contributing to the health, quality of life and economic vitality of a community. With the help of his wife Jeannine and the support of many others, Steve began his journey to establish the Akron Marathon. For the next three years, he and his team worked with a legion of volunteers to research the best practices of some of the top races in the country. Numerous committees worked to plan the preparation and implementation of the race, addressing myriad details associated with the logistics of a marathon: traffic control, runner safety, registration, course selection, water stations, runner transportation and much more. In 2002, the Akron Marathon Charitable Corporation was established. A year later, on October 11, 2003, the Akron Marathon made its debut complete with Bill Rodgers, four-time winner of both the Boston and New York marathons, who served as its spokesman; and comedian Jay Leno who provided post-race entertainment for race participants. In its first year, a total of 3,775 runners participated in either the full 26.2-mile marathon or the five-person relays. More than 3,000 volunteers worked to attend to the mountain of details that would impress runners and bring them back to Akron again. Today, the Akron Marathon hosts over 20,000 participants annually as part of the Akron Marathon Race Series presented by Summa Health.