The Mill Race Marathon is adding a new sponsor this year for the Sept. 22 event and may debut a new course.
In the first sponsorship change in six years, German American Bank joins the roster of title sponsors, joining Cummins, Inc. and Columbus Regional Health, sponsors since the 2013 inaugural race.
German American, which steps in as a title sponsor in place of MainSource Bank, is purchasing four MainSource branches in Columbus.
Jeremy Foster, German American Columbus market president, said the bank was attracted to the spirit of giving back to the community that the marathon embodies.
The race hopes to attract 5,000 runners for the marathon, half marathon, 5K and Kids’ Fun Run this year, with proceeds from entry fees benefiting organizations dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles in Columbus.
In its first five years, the marathon has donated $375,000 to the Columbus Park Foundation and Healthy Communities. Its goal is to donate another $80,000 this year to chosen beneficiaries.
“The amount this event gives back to community nonprofits is very impressive,” Foster said. “We’re a community bank and focused on supporting the community. Obviously we’re very pleased to join Cummins and Columbus Regional Health as a title sponsor.”
Race sponsors pick up the underlying expense of putting on the marathon. That ranges from expenses such as reimbursing the city and county for overtime used to provide event security to paying for portable toilets and race-day equipment. While a large number of volunteers help staff the event, the cost for the race can go above $50,000, an amount the sponsors agree to pick up.
In addition to the sponsorship, Foster said all German American employees will either be volunteering or running in the event. The company is focused on being “all in” with support and volunteer help, he said.
Bypass Mill Race Park?
While German American is joining the marathon, the namesake of the event, Mill Race Park, could be disappearing from the runners’ route for this year’s installment.
The change is needed as Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX finish replacement of the Flat Rock River bridge near Noblitt Park, which runs adjacent to Mill Race, and the expected operation by September of 22 or more higher-speed trains running on the rail line, which includes a crossing at the park entrance.
A project is underway to build a $30 million overpass over the State Road 46/State Road 11 interchange, but that doesn’t change the railroad’s path directly through Columbus along the edge of the park.
CSX plans to send longer, faster and heavier trains northbound on the Louisville & Indiana rail line from Louisville to Indianapolis that will begin hauling freight through Columbus this fall after the river bridge is completed.
Site preparation work has begun for the new bridge, which is expected to be completed in late September to mid-October, said John Goldman, Louisville & Indiana Railroad president. Trains will continue to run through Columbus as the new bridge is built alongside the old structure, he said.
While Louisville & Indiana has in previous years agreed not to run train traffic through Columbus during the marathon, with one major slip-up three years ago, the railroad is not agreeing to stop trains for this year’s marathon, race director Joel Sauer said.
In 2014, a train rolled across the marathon course less than 20 minutes after the 7:30 a.m. start of the half- and full-marathon, resulting in hundreds of runners trying to weave through the obstruction to continue their competitive run.
The train projects have resulted in the need for a new course, adding 7/10ths of a mile elsewhere on the course to make up for the mileage that was once covered in the park, said Randy Stafford, a runner and marathon organizing committee member who finalizes the course route.
Stafford originally had planned to pick up the lost distance from Mill Race Park with a route along 17th Street on the People Trail, going behind an old Arvin facility now used as warehouse space.
But Casey Ritz, Columbus Parks and Recreation Department director of park operations, said the city is considering closing that section of the trail this year to install a lift station, which could mean it would not be available in September.
Pre-construction meetings will be conducted during the next two weeks, and Ritz said he hopes to have more information for Stafford after that. There could be an alternative way around the project that will allow the marathon to use the area, however, he said.
Some adjustment of the start/finish line might also be made to help acquire back the mileage lost from the park, marathon officials said.
If the railroad doesn’t complete the bridge project before the September marathon, there is a chance the original race route from the past five years could be used, Sauer said. But the original and new route will be available and one chosen later this summer based on the railroad’s progress, he said.
The only other major change for race day is a plan to move the start of the 5K run up from 8 a.m. to 7:50 a.m., Sauer said. The full and half marathons would start at the normal time of 7:30 a.m., but moving the 5K to 10 minutes earlier means those runners finish and are off the course 10 minutes earlier.
“There’s been an extended lag there between the starts, and I don’t think we need it,” Sauer said.
Date: Sept. 22
Offered: Full marathon, half-marathon and 5K. A Kids’ Fun Run is offered the afternoon before the race in Mill Race Park. The marathon is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
Where: Downtown Columbus for the start and finish, with the course winding through city neighborhoods
Sponsors: Cummins, German American Bank and Columbus Regional Health
Registration: To register, visit millracemarathon.com. The cost to register before June 30 is $70 for the marathon, $55 for the half marathon and $20 for the 5K. Prices go up after that.
Prizes: Each finisher receives a medal. Any participant who completes the marathon or half marathon is entered to win a Cummins-powered RAM 2500 Crew Cab heavy duty pickup, and the winner must be present to win at the Finish on Fourth After Party after the race. Participants who complete the 5K are eligible to win one of four bikes given away at the after party, and you must be present to win.