The fifth annual Mill Race Marathon is experiencing a mad dash to the starting line.

Interest by runners in next weekend’s races has prompted a surge in registrations over the past three weeks, with more than 1,000 additional registrations. As a result, registrations have almost caught up with last year’s pace.

The Mill Race Marathon had 3,628 entries for the marathon, half-marathon, 5K and Kids Fun Run as of Wednesday — about 5 percent behind last year. Excluding the Sept. 22 kids race, the three races of various lengths Sept. 23 had 3,010 registrants by Wednesday — about 6 percent off last year’s registration pace.

As of three weeks ago, however, registrations for the three main races were behind by 12 percent and all events combined were off 14 percent.

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“We’re excited about the increase in registrations. Numbers are similar to last year and we expect more as we do see a lot of last-minute registrations,” said Laura Chasse, a member of the race organizing committee.

She said it has been great to see an increase in activity on the People Trails around Columbus as runners prepare for marathon events.

Organizers hope the fifth annual race is the best yet, Chasse said.

“We have the added bonus of the Exhibit Columbus this year that will enhance the participants’ and guest’s experience when they are around town,” she said, referring to the 18 temporary installations downtown that celebrate architecture, art and design.

Participants should expect warm, sunny conditions for the race.

Temperatures are projected to be warmer than last year — about 10 degrees warmer than normal — and probably warmer than runners prefer.

Last year the temperature was 64 degrees at 7 a.m. when runners were gathering at the starting line, which was 5 degrees warmer than at the same time leading into the 2015 race.

Warmer conditions mean runners will need to make sure they stay hydrated, said Dave Venable, another organizing committee member.

Water stations will be spaced 1.5 miles apart on the course, and medical stations will be located along the course in case runners have problems with dehydration, he said.

Venable suggested that if runners have a difficult time drinking while running, they can cut a straw to about 5 inches, tuck it under their wristwatch or Garmin, insert the straw into the cup, close the top and drink the water easily.

Two city buses will be on standby on race day in case of extreme hot weather, said Bryan Burton, Columbus Department of Public Works director.

Changes

Race organizers made one minor course tweak for this year. Runners will follow Michigan Street from 16th to 13th streets instead of along Grand Avenue, race director Joel Sauer said.

“(It) will just work out better for traffic flow and for runner safety,” he said.

This year’s marathon also features several other changes.

For example, chip-timing tags will be part of the race bib instead of having to be put on runners’ shoes, Sauer said.

“This is helpful not only before the race but also after the race where they will not have to have their chips removed before leaving the finish corral,” Sauer said.

That will be more convenient for runners and an upgrade for the event, Sauer said.

The Mill Race Marathon is aligned with the Road Runners Club of America for the first time. The marathon and 5K races will serve as the club’s state championship events for those distances.

Road Runners Club of America, founded in 1958, is the oldest and largest distance running organization in the United States with more than 1,000 running club and event members.

“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.

Also new is an interactive map that has been added to the race website, millracemarathon.com.

People can access it by clicking on “Course Maps.” The tool allows people to use their smartphones, tablets or computers to access information about the marathon, half-marathon and 5K courses. The digital map will allow viewers to navigate around the city so they can follow directions to specific destinations or avoid certain areas.

The map highlights each of the three Saturday race courses in a different color. Icons indicate where roads will be closed, water stations are located, parking is available and more.

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, said Jason Perry, a technician with Columbus-based Strand Associates, who developed the map.

Race officials and emergency personnel have 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, another member of the marathon planning committee.

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

Race organizers said they don’t anticipate any problems with trains cutting through Mill Race Park this year while runners are in that portion of the course. A train cut through the course during the second year, causing a disruption to the race.

“We don’t foresee any issues with trains, but we do have spotters north and south of the tracks again this year,” said Sgt. Courtney Plummer of the Columbus Police Department.

Schedule of events

FRIDAY

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

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Kids Fun Run packet pickup and registration at The Commons

4:30 to 5:45 p.m.: Kids Fun Run packet pickup and registration at Mill Race Park, 50 Carl Miske Drive.

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

SATURDAY

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

6:45 a.m.: Gear check open at The Commons

7:10 a.m.: Opening ceremony

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

8:00 a.m.: Start of 5K

9:30 a.m.: 5K overall and 5K RRCA State Championship overall awards ceremony on Finish on Fourth stage

9:30 a.m.: 5K bicycle giveaway drawing for 5K finishers at Finish on Fourth stage — immediately following the 5K overall awards (must be present to win)

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

11:30 a.m.: Marathon and half-marathon overall awards ceremony at Finish on Fourth Stage

2:20 p.m.: Marathon course officially closes

3:50 p.m.: RRCA State Championship marathon awards.

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

Weather forecast

The weather forecasts for the Mill Race Marathon on Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies and afternoon temperatures that range from the mid-80s to the mid-90s.

— Sources: weather.com, accuweather.com

Sign up to run

Runners and walkers can sign up for Saturday’s Mill Race Marathon, half-marathon or 5K until race day.

Through Thursday, prices will be $85 for the full marathon, $70 for the half-marathon and $35 for the 5K. On Friday and Saturday, it’s $95 for the full marathon, $80 for the half-marathon and $30 for the 5K.

Register at millracemarathon.com.

Inside today's Republic

Your guide to the fifth annual Mill Race Marathon can be found inside today’s Republic. It includes everything you will want to know as a runner, observer or someone needing to navigate their way around the city on Saturday’s race day.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.