Runners who line up for the second Mill Race Marathon and Half Marathon will notice course changes before they take their first step.
Randy Stafford and the rest of the Mill Race Marathon Committee made some physical changes to the course, including a different start/finish line location. But new race director Joel Sauer also came up with a few ideas that should make the race flow better.
When runners approach the start line, at its new location near Washington and Seventh streets, they will be assigned corrals.
That will group runners by the pace they have documented from past efforts. The faster runners won’t have to negotiate people traffic.
“It’s just a matter of organizing things better,” said Sauer, who for the past 19 years has owned and directed the Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon.
“It’s a way of spreading people out a little. We will have about six waves, and we will keep people together who run about the same pace,” he said.
Sauer said each of the six waves will have its own start, about two minutes apart. Last year, when the race began, people in the back of the horde of runners might not have even reached the start line for several minutes.
Additionally, he is going to great lengths to make sure the course is clearly marked. In last year’s inaugural event, several of the top runners unintentionally went off course.
“We will mark the turns with cones and those cones will have arrow signs,” Sauer said. “Then we will have the course marshals in place.”
Different from last year, Sauer is using a system where a course marshal will be assigned a three-mile segment, instead of having one marshal oversee the entire course.
Those course marshals will make sure volunteers are in place to point runners in the right direction as well as help with other problems.
A final line of defense also will have one of Sauer’s assistants ride in a car five minutes in front of the lead runners.
“If we see a problem, we will fix it,” he said.
The biggest physical change in the course comes with the start and finish lines, which were in different locations a year ago. The race started on Brown Street and finished on Jackson Street.
“The committee wanted to get the downtown area featured more, and this location went over well with everyone,” Sauer said.
Finishing on Washington will feed runners into the festivities downtown. Only a few other minor changes will be made to the course.
While the actual course won’t change direction from last year at the intersection of Central and 10th streets and on 17th Street between Central Street and Gladstone Avenue (for the half-marathon), the way runners feed through those areas has changed so traffic can move through using half the road area. Basically, runners will be confined to a lane as they make their turn so they won’t take up the entire roadway.
“We had to give people in east Columbus a way to get out,” Stafford said.
The few course changes should make things easier on those who run the event.Stafford said using a common start and finish line reduces the amount of structures needed to run the event. He said the change also opens up Brown and Jackson streets to allow better access to parking.
“Nobody could get to the Cummins corporate lot last year,” Stafford said.
Some other minor problems needed attention.
Stafford said the railroad tracks coming out of Mill Race Park were a problem. The carpet used to cover the tracks wasn’t stiff enough to handle the traffic.
“We had four people holding the edges of the carpet,” Stafford said.
This year plywood will be used.
The rest of the course won’t change much, and Sauer said it shouldn’t.
“My thought was that, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’” he said.
Sauer designed the course he uses for the Indianapolis Marathon each year.
“For me, the main thing I wanted to do was get the beauty of Fort Harrison State Park area involved. Then you make sure the course is wide enough, big enough for the participants,” he said.
“The third thing you have to do is minimize the traffic congestion.”
He said Stafford has done an excellent job realizing those goals with the course in Columbus.
“I have driven this course four or five times,” Sauer said. “It is a nice course that shows all the different parts of Columbus. It has a great area near the start where people who watch only have to walk four or five blocks to see all the runners go by again.
“And, at one point, the marathon runners actually run inside the airport. I’ve never seen that before.”