Mill Race Marathon organizers are pushing to draw at least 4,000 runners and walkers to Columbus from around the globe for the inaugural Sept. 28 event.
The race will include a full 26.2-mile marathon, 13.1-mile half-marathon and 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run with participants winding through downtown Columbus, passing many of the city’s architectural masterpieces, along the People Trails and a portion of the tarmac at Columbus Municipal Airport.
Preparing for the event, the brainchild of sponsor Cummins Inc. to promote health and fitness, has been a marathon in itself with planners bustling behind the scenes. Cummins is joined by MainSource Bank and Columbus Regional Health as key sponsors.
Intense work has been ongoing for more than nine months — with another six months to go.
Details range from certifying the course to organizing shuttle buses and planning contingencies in case of inclement weather.
Some of the immediate work has focused on promoting the race to encourage runner and walker registration and volunteer sign-up.
“It’s not a quick thing. It’s not just painting a white line on the road. It takes a lot of people,” said Ken Long, owner of Ken Long & Associates of Greenwood, hired by Cummins to coordinate race planning.
A committee of Cummins employees also is working with a range of community agencies, including police, fire, parks, sanitation, tourism, hospital, media, city government and transit.
Long, who has planned running and other events for 32 years, said he has been impressed with how the Columbus community has been eager to make all aspects of the event a success.
“Everybody in the community has been really enthusiastic,” Long said following a planning session Thursday.
“Very seldom do you see someone from the sanitation department show up at these meetings. That says something.”
Charlie Farber, market president for MainSource in Columbus, said the event was one in which he and the bank wanted to play an integral role.
Farber liked the health and community-focused aspect and how proceeds will benefit Healthy Communities and Columbus Park Foundation.
The range of events, including a children’s fun run and a health expo, contribute to make it a family-friendly weekend, Farber said.
Farber also will be walking in the half-marathon with his wife, Jayne. Before having hip replacement surgery, Farber ran in 10 marathons, including ones in London, Paris, Hawaii, Alaska and Chicago.
For this event, Farber figures it will take him and his wife about three hours to walk the half-marathon route.
“I started running when I turned 40,” said 63-year-old Farber. “I was out of shape and tired in the evening. Running became a passion for me.”
Andy Pajakowski, a Cummins employee who is on the planning committee, said they had early success securing sponsors.
The initial goal was to raise $100,000, but they already have reached $180,000, so the goal was reset to $200,000.
“There’s just been a lot of
enthusiasm for what we’re
doing and why we’re doing it,” Pajakowski said, referring to the goal of encouraging healthy lifestyles.
Pajakowski said that’s one reason having Columbus Regional Health as a main sponsor fit so well with the event.
Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix said he is preparing his officers for what will be a busy, but exciting day.
Race day will be all-hands-on-deck, Maddix said, but he also has encouraged officers to participate. One already has signed up.
Although plenty of detailed work remains, one of the main areas of focus now is promoting the race to encourage runners and walkers to register.
Laura Chasse, a Cummins employee helping lead the committee, said promotion includes getting the word out to runners on key running websites, in the media and at other running events around the country in coming months.
As of Friday, 266 runners had signed up. The oldest is a 79-year-old man from Columbus, and the person planning to travel the farthest lives in Mongolia.
Organizers have been told 2,000 to 2,500 runners for a marathon’s inaugural year would be considered successful. However, the Cummins committee hopes to attract at least 4,000.
Already, many Cummins and Columbus-area residents have signed up, but now they have to look beyond the area to attract runners from out of state, Chasse said.
She said Cummins carefully chose the Sept. 28 date, one that previously was reserved for the Mill Race Race, and made sure no other marathons or mini-marathons were planned in the area on the same date.
They also are hoping for nice, autumn weather, although the committee knows weather can be a wild card in the most well-planned events.
“You have to plan for the worst,” Chasse said.
“And hope for the best,” Pajakowski added.
Mill Race Park, which has flooded in the past, will be part of the race course and will be a site for some of the events. In case the downtown park can’t be used, alternate locations will be available.
Event organizers are waiting to have the course officially certified but expect that to be complete by the end of April. One holdup is a portion of road on the route is under construction. It will have to be finished before the area can be accurately measured.
Long said measurements are very precise and “right to the penny.”