The unique features of the Mill Race Marathon will remain in place, but some new touches are planned for the race’s fifth year.

For the first time, the Mill Race Marathon, set for Sept. 23, will be aligned with the Road Runners Club of America, and its marathon and 5K races will serve as the club’s state championship events for those distances.

An interactive map has been added to the race website, millracemarathon.com, which allows people to use their smartphones, tablets or computers to access information about the marathon, half-marathon and 5K courses. The digital tool will allow people to navigate around the city — directing them to places they seek or will want to avoid.

Organizers are aiming for 5,000 runners for the three race-day events, which would be about 500 more than signed up last year. About 3,600 runners finished last year’s three Saturday races.

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With the race countdown at 159 days, the emphasis for organizers now is getting the word out.

Columbus race representatives will attend the Carmel Marathon this month and the Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis in May to promote the Mill Race Marathon. They will be able to tell runners about the new touches, and about the popular unique features: the Ram truck giveaway, the architectural gems along the routes and that the race is a Boston Marathon qualifier.

Dave Venable, who was instrumental in launching the Mill Race Marathon, said he gets excited at this time of year, when planning and marketing ramp up.

He said he thinks the Mill Race Marathon is something a lot of people take pride in and enjoy.

“It’s a win-win-win scenario. Everyone on the committee enjoys doing the work, we hope participants enjoy participating and it seems the community embraces it,” said Venable, a planning committee member.

Club partnership ‘big deal’

The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) is the oldest and largest distance running organization in the United States, founded in 1958. It has more than 1,000 running club and event members. The RCCA’s mission is to promote the development and growth of community running clubs and events, and supporting runners of all ages and abilities, according to the club’s website.

The Indiana chapter of the RCCA takes applications each year from events statewide that want to be state championship events, race director Joel Sauer said. The Mill Race Marathon’s 5K and marathon distances were chosen this year — a rarity for two to be selected from one event in the same year, Sauer said, who added he’s hopeful the half-marathon distance will be a state championship race in the future.

“This is a big deal because it is a recognition by Indiana RRCA of the Mill Race Marathon events being high-quality events worthy to be chosen as state championships,” Sauer said.

Although the RRCA designation is a change, the physical routes themselves for the Columbus marathon, half-marathon and 5K courses will remain the same, Sauer said.

Also familiar will be the presence of some of the top runners. Alexander Cushman, of Madison, Wisconsin, and Bryan Morseman, of Bath, New York, are expected back this year. Cushman finished second in last year’s race. Morseman, the 2015 winner, finished third in last year’s men’s marathon race.

Map aids navigation

Something new, however, will be a map that people can access on millracemarathon.com, under course maps, that will give detailed information about the marathon, half-marathon and 5K courses.

The map highlights each course in a different color. Icons indicate where roads will be closed, water stations are located, parking is available, restrooms are located, first aid is available and weather covers are located. The parking lots also are color-coded to the parking passes distributed at the Health and Wellness Expo.

People can click on the icons to bring up a legend and additional information, such as the times a section of a road will be closed or the street location of a first aid center. However, the map doesn’t provide real-time information about traffic or course conditions, said Jason Perry, a technician with Columbus-based Strand Associates, who developed the map.

The map runs on a Google My Maps platform, and is similar to Bartholomew County’s geographic information system that allows people to seek property information using a detailed map of the county, Perry said.

Race officials and emergency personnel have previously used the map behind the scenes as a tool on race day to help ensure everything is where it needs to be, and provide an all-encompassing look, said Erica Tucker, a member of the marathon planning committee.

“The decision to make it public came from a conversation the planning committee was having around how we can best inform the public of all the traffic information they need to know on race day, and we felt this tool could do not only that, but also allow runners to zoom in on the courses, highlight parking areas, allow spectators to map out the best places to stand and watch,” Tucker said.

The hope is that the map alleviates the stress of getting around Columbus on race day, and helps people find parking spaces and locate good places to watch the runners, Tucker said.

While race organizers hope this new feature is well received, a new one introduced last year received overwhelmingly positive feedback and worked as intended.

Anti-doping policy

The marathon’s planners implemented an anti-doping policy last year in an effort to ensure the integrity of the races.

Two of the top male finishers from last year’s marathon and half-marathon were disqualified and did not receive their prize money. The agent who paid for their registrations was known for violating anti-doping policies within the past two years, planning committee member Laura Chassee said.

Large races have always had the ability to implement drug-testing policies. But in more recent years, medium-size races such as Mill Race Marathon, that offer prize money but typically don’t have the resources to implement drug-testing protocols, have become targets for runners and coaches who try to cheat, Sauer said.

Prize money is not distributed on race day in order to give the planning committee time to check if any of the top finishers violated the policy, the race director said.

This allowed for those runners who initially lost positions and prize money to receive their rightful finishes and prizes, Sauer said.

“I applaud the Mill Race planning committee for taking this stand and sending a message to the wider running community that they will have a clean race,” the race director said.

About the marathon

What: Mill Race Marathon, a fifth annual running event in Columbus that features a marathon, half-marathon and 5K run/walk

When: 7:30 a.m. Sept. 23

Where: Downtown Columbus and other parts of the city

Kids Fun Run: 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at Mill Race Park

Health and Wellness Expo, packet pickup: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 22 at The Commons, 300 Washington St.

For more information or to register: millracemarathon.com

Boston Marathon connection

The Mill Race Marathon in Columbus is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. The local event’s marathon, half-marathon and 5K races are Sept. 23.

The Boston Marathon is Monday, and will air at 8:30 a.m. on NBC Sports Network.

Some of this year’s Boston Marathon participants have local connections:

  • Richard A. Mann III, 39, Columbus; James Mann, 39, Greenwood (twin brothers)
  • Rhandi L. Orme, 33, Columbus
  • Tyler Stilwell, 34, Columbus
  • David W. Herr, 57, North Vernon
  • David Venable, 56, Bargersville (Cummins, Mill Race Marathon organizing committee)
  • Kathy Yeager, 55, Nashville

Runners can register for the Mill Race Marathon by visiting millracemarathon.com.

Share your story

Are you participating in the Mill Race Marathon for the fifth straight year? The Republic would like to know if you’ve been a marathon, half-marathon or 5K participant every time.

If you are willing to share your story, please contact us at editorial@therepublic.com. Please include your name, contact information (phone numbers, email) and a brief description of your involvement.

Interactive map

People who live in Columbus or are visiting can find an interactive map on the Mill Race Marathon website to help them navigate the city.

To check it out, go to millracemarathon.com, then click on Course Maps.