After inciting confusion and panic at last year’s event, a train whistle will signal the beginning of the third annual Mill Race Marathon.

And after six months of careful planning and preparation to avoid problems — like a train rolling through the course — organizers say this weekend’s races are right on track.

“We feel good,” said Laura Chasse, a member of the marathon planning committee. “There are so many people who have been working on this this year, and it’s a great group of people who like to come together for one goal.”

Starting in March, the committee began working to reaching several goals for the 2015 races, chief among them increasing the number of registered runners.

Story continues below gallery

After seeing a dip in registrations last year, the committee employed a new marketing strategy aimed at reaching out-of-area runners, attending running events in Louisville and Indianapolis.

Through Wednesday, the number of runners registered from either Kentucky (114), Ohio (107) or Illinois (94) are all higher than last year — and there are also more runners from Indianapolis (149).

The total number of registrants so far has risen to 3,680, just 30 short of this time last year — an improvement over earlier trends this year.

Registration for the Kids Fun Run on Friday was 558 runners, down about 8 percent from the same time last year — but those numbers likely will rise this week.

Unlike the full and half marathon and 5K races, which have registration fees that gradually increase closer to the event, there is no entry fee for the Friday fun run.

“That generally gets a whole lot of last-minute sign-ups,” said Joel Sauer, marathon director. “There’s no way to predict the number. There will probably be a lot more signing up (this) week, and even the day of.”

Saturday’s races have 3,122 runners signed up, however, which is 121 (1 percent) higher than at this time last year, Sauer said.

An imminent registration price hike at the beginning of September likely motivated runners to make the commitment and sign up, he said.

“You can always count on a big jump right before that,” Sauer said.

Like the Kids Fun Run, registration for the three Saturday races likely will continue to climb this week as competitors make their final decisions and plans.

Changing course

Aside from its focus on recruitment, the planning committee had to work through changes to this year’s marathon, including altering the race courses.After leaving from the starting line at Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets — which will be slightly closer to Sixth Street this year — marathon and half marathon competitors will run on the same course for the first 12 miles of the race.Then, at the corner of 23rd Street and Lafayette Avenue, half marathoners will head south toward Washington Street, while marathoners will head north in the direction of U.S. 31.

Marathon runners will continue on a northbound path until they reach the Columbus Municipal Airport, where they will turn around and follow the same path back to the finish.

“From the activity — having people around, being in the neighborhoods, being cheered on — we’re really excited about what that’s going to do (for the runners),” Chasse said.

Other changes to the course will cut down on traffic interference, Sauer said.

At Mile 8 of both the marathon and half marathon, runners will follow State Street onto Coovert Street, rather than continuing on to Marr Road. Because it is a highly traveled area, the committee opted to leave Marr Road out of this year’s course, Sauer said.

But even with Marr Road open, parking and road restrictions will still be in effect throughout Columbus.

Several portions of Washington Street will be closed, starting at 6 a.m. Friday and until 5 p.m. Saturday.

Other major thoroughfares throughout the city — including parts of Jonathan Moore Pike, Central Avenue and State Street — will be closed or restricted throughout the weekend.

A complete list of road closures is available on the marathon website, millrace marathon.com. All roads should be reopened by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Course marshals will be stationed throughout the routes, and police officers and a member of the marathon committee will drive ahead of the runners to ensure runners follow the correct path and steer clear of any traffic.

Cones also will line the courses to alert motorists to the presence of runners and to keep runners on the route.

After some concerns about ongoing road construction projects, Chasse said all portions of all courses have a covered surface, making the path smoother for runners.

Construction along Indiana Avenue and State Street was of particular concern to the committee, but other than a few orange barrels, nothing should be on the roads that will block the runners’ paths.

No repeat of train episode

The committee also went to great lengths to ensure the now-infamous train incident of 2014 does not repeat itself in 2015.Just minutes after the marathon began last year, a Louisville & Indiana train blocked part of the course north of the Third Street bridge, near Mill Race Park.Competitors tried to run around the train and at one point even climbed through the train cars.

No injuries were reported because of the incident, but some runners were delayed by two to three minutes, which hurt their overall times.

This year, the Louisville & Indiana railroad company has agreed to redirect its trains away from Columbus from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday during the Fun Run, as well as during the races Saturday.

“We’re triple checking that there’s nothing coming down the tracks,” Chasse said.

And as added insurance, railroad representatives met one-on-one with members of the planning committee and also were invited to the city meetings to ensure the train schedules did not clash with the marathon again.

With very few loose ends left to tie up in the days leading up to the marathon, both Chasse and Sauer said they are confident their team is ready to put on another successful event.

“We’re ready to execute,” Chasse said.

Friday, Saturday event schedule

FRIDAY

10 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Health and Fitness Expo and packet pickup and registration, The Commons

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Kids Fun Run packet pickup and registration, The Commons

4:30 to 5:45 p.m.: Kids Fun Run packet pickup and registration, Mill Race Park

6 p.m.: Start of Kids Fun Run, Mill Race Park

SATURDAY

5:30 to 6:30 a.m.: Packet pickup and registration, The Commons

6:45 a.m.: Gear check opens, The Commons

7:10 a.m.: Opening ceremony

7:30 a.m.: Marathon and half-marathon begin

8:05 a.m.: Start of SIHO 5K

9:30 a.m.: SIHO 5K overall awards ceremony followed by bicycle giveaway (must be present to win), Finish on Fourth stage

10 a.m.: Finish on Fourth After Party kicks off with live music

11:30 a.m.: Half-marathon and full marathon overall awards ceremony, Finish on Fourth Stage

2:18 p.m.: Marathon course officially closes

4 p.m.: Grand prize truck giveaway drawing (must be present to win), Finish on Fourth stage

Health Expo

The Health Expo will begin at 10 a.m. Friday and will run until 8 p.m. at The Commons. At the Expo, volunteers will be able to check in, runners will be able to pick up their packets or register and all participants will be able to pick up T-shirts. Several health and community-oriented organizations will also be on-hand, including:

  • GODFIT/Running Boston
  • Foundation for Youth
  • Asheville Marathon
  • Tuxedo Brothers
  • Carmel Road Racing Group
  • Indianapolis Marathon
  • Secrest ChiroMed Health Center
  • Mandy Wyant
  • Juice Plus
  • Columbus Foot and Ankle
  • SIHO
  • Columbus Acupuncture
  • National Running Center
  • Green Bean Delivery
  • Renaissance Dental Group
  • Anixter, Inc.
  • Garb2Art
  • Popportunity
  • Southern Indiana Othopedics
  • Guayaki
  • QMix
  • Anthem Insurance
  • Columbus Regional Health
  • White River Running Company
  • Diamond in the Rough
  • Still Frame Photography
  • Plexus Worldwide
  • Hamilton

By the numbers

Registration numbers as Wednesday.

Marathon: 332 runners

Half marathon: 1,671 runners

5K: 1,119 runners

Kids’ Fun Run: 558 runners

Registration info

Registration for the marathon, half marathon and 5K is open until 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Prices will rise for a final time Friday.

Prices through Sept. 24

  • Marathon: $85
  • Half marathon: $70
  • 5K: $30

Prices on race weekend

  • Marathon: $95
  • Half marathon: $80
  • 5K: $35

Parking/road closures

Parking in the following areas will be limited to only those with a marathon pass from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. Saturday:

  • Handicapped parking: Surface lot at Sixth and Jackson streets
  • Eighth and Jackson streets lot (participants)
  • Cummins Corporate Office lot (participants)
  • Fourth Street garage (participants)
  • Second Street garage (participants, volunteers)
  • Third and Brown streets lot (participants, volunteers)
  • Fourth and Franklin streets lot (participants, volunteers)

Beginning at 7:30 a.m., limited public parking will be available.

A complete list of road closures and restrictions is available at millracemarathon.com.

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.