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City officials, race organizers and participants called Saturday’s first Mill Race Marathon almost perfect.
Laura Chasse, a marathon committee member and Cummins employee, said organizers could not have asked for a better day, crowd and participation.
“It’s definitely exceeded what we thought it would be,” Chasse said.
Hospitality efforts got high marks.
One runner told Chasse that residents were offering them water from hoses in their yard.
Chasse said she also was surprised by the number of participants. About 700 registered starting Thursday, pushing the total number of runners to about 4,800.
“Just crazy numbers,” she said.
Dave Crompton, a Cummins vice president who serves on the marathon committee, estimated in early June that there would be 2,000 to 3,000 participants in the inaugural event.
One local sports-tourism executive, however, suggested at the time that the number of runners could be much higher.
Jim Dietz, director of sports tourism for the Columbus Area Visitors Center, said he thought as many as 5,000 participants might sign up for the marathon, half-marathon or 5K run/walk.
“This is a very well-organized event, and runners can see the support that is behind this,” Dietz said.
Nearly four months later, his instincts proved correct.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said the atmosphere in downtown Columbus, before and after the race, was electric.
She said the day highlighted the strength of the city’s public-private partnerships.
“So much work has gone into planning this over the last year. And to make it this kind of success has been a collaboration of extraordinary proportions,” Brown said. “It has just been exceptional.”
Brown took part in the opening ceremonies and 5k race and, Saturday afternoon, was on her way back to the Finish on 4th Afterparty.
“Community members are really enjoying it. It is a great celebration. I have had many people coming up to me who were from out of town and telling me how impressed they were for Columbus,” Brown said.
Chip Battiato, a physical therapist from Columbus, Ohio, was one of those impressed.
He attended the race with his 1-year-old daughter, Ashton, to support his wife, Carrie, who was running in the half-marathon.
“This is the first one?” Battiato asked. “Wow! That’s pretty impressive. Everybody I’ve talked to feels it’s pretty well-organized.”
The mayor also praised the community members who used the upcoming marathon as a reason to get fit and active.
“The turnout speaks volumes about our commitment to being a healthy city,” Brown said.
Runners offer suggestions
Dietz said he talked to numerous runners using shuttle buses to reach the start line, and most of their comments were very positive.
“Most people said for the first time out, this was a great run,” Dietz said.
He acknowledged that a lot of runners left at midday or early afternoon after the race and didn’t fully participate in the after-party.
“Another critique was that a lot of runners would like to see us start the marathon earlier, 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., because it gets warmer as the day goes on,” Dietz said.
Bruno Reynolds, a Greenwood resident who took part in the Cincinnati and Charleston, S.C., marathons earlier this year, said he thought the Columbus race came off smoothly. He ran the full 26.2 miles.
From his perspective, Reynolds said the marathon course seemed well-marked with distinct arrows on traffic cones, showing where to make turns. He said he was surprised to learn that some lead runners strayed off course.
“From my experience, this was done well,” Reynolds said. “The temperatures were real cool early, although it did warm up later in the day. But that’s not in the control of the organizers.”
Temperatures were 48 degrees when the race started and reached an afternoon high of 82.
Jeff Haas, a Martinsville runner who made the one-hour drive to Columbus to run his first marathon in five years, said his only criticism was that race organizers seemed a little slow to get “pace” signs up at the race’s start.
Normally, placards are erected along the starting point of a marathon to let a few thousand runners taking part find the 8-minute-mile pace or 10-minute pace or even a slower pace, Haas said.
The Mill Race Marathon had the signs, “but they seemed to come out only three minutes before race, and that was a little late,” Haas said.
That led to a lot of runners with varying abilities all cramped in one section, he said.
Dietz said a few other runners would have liked to see “pace runners” actually taking part in the race carrying placards listing how fast they intended to run.
Anyone who wanted to keep a similar pace could have simply joined their pack, Dietz said he was told.
One runner who flew all the way in from San Francisco said he only runs in small-town marathons and he expects to return to Columbus next year, Dietz said.
“He liked the way our course went through a lot of neighborhoods,” Dietz said. “He said it was a lot better than running through corn fields where you’d see mile after mile of the same thing.”
Safety, cleanup good
Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix said that from a public safety perspective, the event went well, in part because of the planning and cooperation among many local public safety agencies, lead sponsor Cummins Inc. and the 800 volunteers.
Police were prepared to respond to any major incident, with the SWAT team and bomb squad standing by and surveying the course, Maddix said.
Thankfully, he said, no major incidents were reported.
Bryan Burton, manager of the Columbus City Garage, said his nine-person crew was at work by 3 a.m. Saturday closing streets with cones. Things went so smoothly that they were able to help the teams putting up chain-link fences across downtown alleys.
By 1 p.m., most of the cones were removed, and the city crews were moving through the city picking up trash bags filled by volunteers with course litter.
“The volunteers, they did a very good job at the water stations getting all the trash in bags,” Burton said.
The city will hold a meeting later in the week to discuss improvements for next year, Burton said.
Republic reporters Boris Ladwig and Randy McClain contributed to this report.
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