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COLUMBUS, Ind. — The Mill Race Marathon has begun.
The first runners, participating in the full and half marathons, crossed the Robert N. Stewart Street Bridge shortly after 8 a.m., escorted by police motorcycles.
The start was packed with runners and spectators filling downtown streets. Spectators jockeyed for position to get photographs of the start of the race.
Sixth-grade students at CSA Lincoln campus are handing out bananas to runners as they go by.
The students also are playing rock songs, such as "We Will Rock You" and "Eye of the Tiger" to motivate runners.
The students said they are doing this to support their principal, Chad Phillips, who is among the race participants.
The 5K race started at 9 a.m.
Downtown Columbus was buzzing with activity this morning.
Lots of race participants earlier were at The Commons, upstairs and downstairs, reading newspapers, stretching, looking over route maps. Others are gathered along Fourth Street.
About 50 participants were gathered at Hotel Indigo. Some appear relaxed while others are keyed up, said Sandi Landwerlen, the hotel's director of sales.
Angelica Renteria, originally from Mexico but now living in Columbus because her husband works for Cummins Inc., is participating in the half marathon. She described herself as a former couch potato who took up running to challenge herself. The race is a family affair because her husband is a race volunteer, distributing water.
Race organizers have made announcements telling participants the procedure for the start of the race.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown made her opening remarks and proclaimed today as a great day for the city.
Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, and his wife Karen stood on the podium at Fifth and Jackson streets and told spectators that they would be participating in the 5K race today, and that they competed in their first marathon in 2009. The governor said a healthy Indiana is important. He also urged people to stay in Columbus after the race and enjoy what the beautiful community has to offer.
A huge number of bananas are set up at the rest and relaxation area at the finish line, so runners can get nourishment immediately after finishing.
When Debbie Miller moved to Columbus three years ago, she didn't envision spending this Saturday morning stacking bananas two-feet high on a series of folding tables at Jackson and Fifth streets. But the Mill Race Marathon was enough to get Miller to produce a few hours of volunteerism to aid runners who today will run, prance or crawl through the finish line and find Miller's sea of bananas waiting.
"You just do what you can to help," said Miller, whose next chore was folding and disposing of several dozen empty cardboard packing crates.
Why did Miller choose to pitch in as a volunteer?
"I wanted to be involved and get to know people as well, especially since I am relatively new to Columbus," she said.
Miller got an early start. She woke up at 4:45 a.m. and reported for duty at her banana station at 6 a.m.
"We call it the rest and recovery area," Miller said. "Runners can grab whatever they need."
Race volunteer Kerry Osborne arrived downtown at 6:45 a.m. to begin filling water cups for participants. Osborne, who works for URS Architects and Engineers, said his employer does a lot of work on the Crump Theatre. He thought volunteering for the race would be a way to give back.
Members of Donner Swim Club set up water at the first water station in Mill Race Park, about 1,600 cups.
Ambulances were ready at the Cummins Corporate Office Building.
City crews set up fencing o block off downtown streets.
Just before the start of the race, police urged patience and caution of motorists, but said so far authorities had no incidents to report.
Columbus Police Department bomb squad, aided by Indiana State Police, swept the course this morning as a precaution, but found nothing of note, said Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix.
The chief said that about 200 law enforcement officials are being deployed throughout the city today, including 75 from Columbus Police Department and 25 from the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.
The bomb squad and the SWAT team have been strategically placed, Maddix said. Some CPD officers are patrolling the downtown area on bicycles, and K-9 units are standing by.
Local police will be aided by about 85 Indiana State troopers, some of whom will travel on motorcycle so that they can quickly get through traffic.
Maddix asked that motorists remain patient as traffic backs up after the race begins.
When runners cross the Robert N. Stewart Bridge, traffic will back up at State Roads 46 and 11, Maddix said. He also expected congestion on Central Avenue from State to 10th streets between 8 and 10 a.m., and on State Street, which will be reduced to one lane each way.
Maddix reiterated that runners will have the right of way today.
“We’ll stop traffic for the runners,” he said. “The No. 1 goal is to see they complete the race safely.”
As of 8:30 a.m., law enforcement authorities said everything related to security and parking was running smoothly.
Though an Indiana State Police airplane was flying overhead to monitor traffic flow, Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix said so far no major traffic backups had been reported.
One runner was injured in a fall at State roads 46 and 11 at about 8:30, but the injury appeared to be minor, Maddix said.
“So far the morning’s been smooth,” Maddix said.
Columbus Fire Department Chief Dave Allmon said that before the race the department had to move its ladder truck from Station 1 to Station 3, because the racers will pass by Station 1. Stations are manned as normal, he said, and, in case of any incident, he will coordinate with dispatch to guide units around congested areas.
Nearly 30 emergency medical technicians and paramedics are roaming the city, Allmon said.
Parking also appeared to be running smoothly, with some surface lots still showing some available spots. Even shortly after the race had begun, the parking lot at The Cole still had hundreds of spaces unoccupied.
Please check for additional updates.
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