Sam Costa aims to defend title at Carmel’s historic Sam Costa Half Marathon


Terry Townsend became enamored with the story of the Sam Costa Half Marathon.

A group of friends, including former Carmel High School cross country and track and field coach Chuck Koeppen, ran the Central Indiana Striders Half Marathon with Costa, a detective with the Chicago Police Dept. Costa died unexpectedly in 1972 and the friends decided to rename the half marathon after him.

CIC COM 0314 Sam Costa Race
Sam Costa en route to capturing the Sam Costa Half Marathon overall title in 2022 in Carmel. (Photo courtesy of Terry Townsend)

The 52nd annual Sam Costa Half and Quarter Marathon is set for March 25 in Carmel, with the race starting at Northview Church.

The defending champion has a familiar name. Townsend thought it was a prank when he saw Sam Costa entered in the 2022 race. It was no gag. 

“I looked into his entry five or 10 days before and it looked like a real person,” Townsend said. “My wife, Robin, before the race, said joking, ‘Sam since you came all this way (from Atlanta),  the very least you can do is win your age group and get your name on the T-shirt.’ He said, ‘I’ll do my best.’”

Costa, a former Georgia Tech cross country runner and no relation to the Chicago detective, won the 2022 race amid freezing temperatures. There were only a few spectators because of the weather.

“I went to the finish line, and I saw Sam coming in to win, it was unreal,” Townsend said. “There were two women clapping.”

Turns out the women were Costa’s mother and aunt, who had come from Detroit to see Costa run.

Costa, who now lives in Miami, is planning to return to defend his title.

“We changed both the race courses last year to make them better in every way,” Townsend said. “It’s better, safer and easier to manage. We don’t go up into Noblesville.”

Townsend, a 73-year-old Lawrence resident, became involved when Indy Runners took over the race in 1982. 

“I became the director in 1988, and before that I was a participant and a regular volunteer,” said Townsend, a retired electrical engineer. “When they asked me to get involved, I did, because I loved the story. I’m a story guy. I loved the idea it was named after one of their friends. I loved it was the oldest race in Indiana.”

Townsend said running is a year-round pursuit for most of the competitors in the race.

“This isn’t something they stumble into, running a half or quarter marathon the first weekend of spring is something you have to be training many months prior to,” he said. “A lot of the folks come back year after year.”

One is Westfield resident Lucie Sulewski, who has won the Sam Costa Half Marathon women’s overall title seven times, the last time in 2019.

“I enjoy competing as it is an accurate, well organized, local run,” Sulewski said. “I enjoy the friendly environment and excitement of spring running beginning. The course is great, and often fans along the route cheer the runners on.” 

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