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Mill Race Marathon has successful debut

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Half marathon contestant Rich Smith exhalts as he crosses the finish line Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at the Mill Race Marathon.
Half marathon contestant Rich Smith exhalts as he crosses the finish line Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at the Mill Race Marathon.

Next year’s Mill Race Marathon will feature a new race coordinator, new website and updated stations for water and volunteer direction-givers, but overall organizers are just looking to replicate the success of this year’s inaugural event.

The new event and its associated shorter races had 4,105 finishing participants, filled local hotel rooms and touched on every corner of the community. But there are some details organizers say can be improved before next year’s Sept. 27 outing.

The September race was The Republic’s top story of 2013, as chosen by the newspaper’s editorial board.

David Venable, one of the members of the race organizing committee, said his clearest memories of this year’s race are the hundreds of photos he captured along the course, including those showing the anticipation and excitement of runners as they waited for the race to begin. Then he was able to run the 5K with his own family.

“It was a very special day. Having planned that for the last 2½ years or so and seeing it come to fruition was really special,” Venable said.

One area that especially impressed him was the number of runners who would not normally be seen at races — people in the community taking advantage of the race excitement and environment to improve their health.

“For a startup year, having the number of runners that we did, the number of volunteers, the community involvement, I think it exceeded any expectations that we had,” Venable said. “It was a wonderful day, I think, for everyone involved.”

Venable said the organizers are also making plans for this year to again give away a Dodge truck powered by Cummins Inc.

“It really puts this event on the map as something that is different, that sets it apart,” he said.

Many plan to return

Laura Chasse, a member of the organizing committee, said the group was pleased with the inaugural success. A survey indicated that

98 percent of the participants planned to come back. The Boston Marathon-certified course is already locked in for next year.

“I can’t say how proud I am to be part of this community and everybody I have talked to is just so pleased at the collaboration that took place with this event,” Chasse said.

She said the committee is considering some small improvements such as moving the location of water stations, or the placement of volunteer direction-givers along the route. And the race will have its own website this year, instead of being under the web page of the race coordinator.

New coordinator

Despite the first-year success, the race planning committee decided to seek bids for an individual or firm to serve as race coordinator.

Joel Sauer, race director for the Indianapolis marathon, will be the new coordinator of the Columbus race, Venable said. Sauer is starting his 19th year in charge of the annual Indianapolis event, conducted in October three weeks after the Columbus race. It also includes a 5K and mini-marathon, as does the Columbus race.

Ken Long & Associates of Greenwood, which has managed and owned running events since 1978, coordinated the inaugural Mill Race Marathon event. Long had a one-year contract to coordinate the race.

Venable said the committee’s goal was to find and hire the most qualified, experienced race coordinator.

“We have so many volunteers and so much excitement and energy,” Venable said. “Having his (Sauer’s) experience, matched with our energy in the community for the event should be a good match for 2014.”

Meetings underway

Mayor Kristen Brown said that city officials already are beginning planning meetings for next year’s race.

Although the city will look for areas to improve, Brown said she was happy that the city was able to put on a good, safe race, all the way from the road-closing signs to the efforts of law enforcement and emergency medical services.

“The community came together in typical Columbus fashion and held an event that I think was extraordinary in all regards,” she said. “We are just delighted that all of the sponsors and other public entities are committed to doing it again next year and hopefully for well into the future.”

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