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Alec Sheehy, the former state swimming champion at Columbus North, makes his living doing research.
But when he heard that Columbus was going to host a marathon, he didn’t look into it much further. He knew, considering the location and the people who live here, that it would be a nice, little event.
To say he was pleasantly surprised after running on Saturday would be an understatement.
“I was very impressed with the whole event,” said Sheehy, a Stanford University graduate who now works as a scientist for Abbott Laboratories and lives in Redwood City, Calif. “I have done a couple of marathons within the last year and, I guess on the whole this event was run as well as any big race.
“And it still had a small race feel. It was a perfect combination.”
An avid runner and a triathlete, Sheehy said he definitely will be back to run again.
Considering he lives on the West Coast, that’s huge praise and a main reason the Mill Race Marathon is bound to add another thousand runners or so next season in its second running.
“In the first year, I didn’t think it would be as good as it was,” said Sheehy, who won state championships in the 200 individual medley in 1999 and 2000. “I was surprised at how smoothly everything ran. I talked to my parents (Kathleen and Joseph Sheehy of Columbus) about trying to recruit my siblings (Erin and Conor Sheehy) to run next year.”
That’s the kind of word of mouth that will grow the Mill Race Marathon into something special.
I would imagine that the marathon committee will face a few challenges when it comes to attracting more runners in 2014.
It no longer will be the first event, so they might not have the excitement they managed to generate locally. Although we have hundreds of running events here in Indiana, the thought of running a marathon in Columbus was intriguing to Bartholomew County residents. I would imagine that many of our readers know someone in town who decided to run a marathon or half-marathon for the very first time because of the inaugural event.
Whether they come back to run a second time remains to be seen, but after the success on Saturday and wonderful atmosphere, the word might get around that running late in September is the thing to do and Columbus is the place to be.
It is a lock that the race will attract more out-of-town participants. I guarantee that runners left Columbus for home to New York or Florida or Wisconsin, and they couldn’t wait to tell their friends about this jewel of a race.
In walking around downtown before the start of the race, it was apparent the Mill Race Marathon could attract a couple of thousand runners more without too much difficulty. I know local residents might have felt a bit crowded, but from covering marathons in other cities, I could attest to the fact there was plenty of space.
The race committee probably will want to have better security down the final 500 yards of the race as the spectators started to pile into the street, squeezing into the path of the runners. It wasn’t bad, but it could have been.
Committee members already have met to discuss things that need to be tweaked for next year.
My suggestion would be to drop the philosophy of trying to recruit “elite” runners. We have some fine athletes right here in the Midwest, including our own rock star in Danny Fisher, and they certainly will see this event on the calendar. If they don’t show up, tough darts for them. Does anyone really care if some guy from Kenya flies in the morning of the race, takes a limo to the start line, wins the race, grabs an energy drink and his check, and flies out again?
This race will succeed or fail because it is a terrific all-around event for the lion’s share of runners, who aren’t worried about a cash prize. All you needed to do was talk with the runners as they finished on Saturday. They didn’t talk about the competition.
They talked about Columbus being “safe, clean and fun.”
Now that’s a winning combination.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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