A Mill Race Marathon planning committee member’s annual participation in one of the races allows him to personally audit the event by experiencing what the other participants do.
Dave Venable said his enjoyable run this year matched what he heard from other runners.
“I thought it was perfect,” he said.
Venable, who competed in the half-marathon, said he talked to finishers in each event and heard positive reviews of the fourth edition of the race around Columbus. Runners said they loved the course and the medals, for example.
About two dozen local high school students in integrated manufacturing classes at Columbus North High School made special medals that were presented to the top 200 finishers in both the full and half-marathons.
Venable wasn’t alone among organizers who received positive feedback.
Runners said they appreciated the new feature of spray stations that firefighters set up along the course, giving runners the option to run through a mist to cool off a bit, race director Joel Sauer said.
Randy Stafford, another member of the race organizing committee, said finishers he spoke with complimented the efforts of the volunteers on the course and also the police for directing runners through intersections without problems.
Stafford added that the silence he largely heard on his radio was a good thing.
“That’s a sign there were no issues,” Stafford said.
And it came on a day when participation was up.
In all, the marathon’s four running events drew 5,246 entrants — the highest since the inaugural marathon in 2013 when 5,596 registered. This year’s races set new records for runners registered in the Kids Fun Run (1,286) and 5K (1,757). The total number of runners registering for this year represented a 1.4 percent increase over 2015.
Also, 3,610 runners finished one of the three Saturday races, an increase of 115 from last year (3.3 percent).
Starting promotional efforts earlier in the year helped participation, as did greater efforts of the promotional staff, said Laura Chasse, a member of the planning committee.
But numbers aren’t the driving force in putting on the race, Venable said.
“Our main objective is to put on a quality event that enhances a participant’s lifestyle from a healthy standpoint,” Venable said.
Achieving that goal requires a healthy involvement by the community, not only by volunteering to assist race-day operations but also by supporting the runners.
Spectators along the course were loud and supportive of runners, many of them clapping or cheering as participants dashed past.
Eric Lukas had more than a dozen friends in his front yard in the 2200 block of Chestnut Street. He started his Saturday morning at 6 a.m. getting things ready for his guests.
Last year, about five people were with Lukas on race day, but this year the group took up most of the sidewalk in front of his house.
“We started this because we had a lot of friends running and we wanted to cheer them on,” Lukas said. “Now we’re cheering everyone on.”
The Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana members cheered on runners in front of its building in the 2300 block of Chestnut Street, offering bottled water and some humorous signs to keep runners entertained.
The first sign read, “Smile — remember you paid to do this.”
The second sign reminded runners that, “When your legs can’t run, run with your heart.”
At the end of the line of signs was the one that seemed to draw the most laughter from runners. It said, “Stop reading and keep running.”
Beating the heat
Drink stations, spray stations and bottled water were appreciated by the runners because heat was one of the sub-plots of this year’s marathon.
With the temperature at 64 degrees at 7 a.m., that was 5 degrees warmer than last year just ahead of the race start. Organizers were concerned that temperatures would soar into the high 80s and make the races more difficult for competitors.
However, a cloud cover for about the first four hours allowed the 5K and half-marathon finishers to complete their races before the sun came out, and most of the marathon runners had finished before the weather became a concern.
Only by 4 p.m. did Columbus register a daily high of 84 degrees, which was 11 degrees hotter than last year’s 73 degrees at that point in the day.
As a result, far fewer participants had to visit medical tents this year, Sauer said.