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Organizers discuss what changes to expect for second race

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Randy Stafford, Laura Chasse and Andy Pajakowski of the Mill Race Marathon organizing committee on 4th St.
Randy Stafford, Laura Chasse and Andy Pajakowski of the Mill Race Marathon organizing committee on 4th St.

Lacing up your running shoes again?

Organizers of the Mill Race Marathon hope so, and are building on last year’s inaugural event that brought close to 15,000 people downtown.

The plans are off and running for the weekend — Sept. 26 and 27 — which will include a full 26.2-mile marathon, a 13.1-mile half-marathon, a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run/walk, a Kids Fun Run, a health expo and one big party with music, food and more.

Organizers are taking lessons learned from last year’s event and making some changes. There will be a bigger emphasis on getting youth and non-runners involved, for example, but the mission remains the same.

The goal of the Mill Race Marathon is to promote active lifestyles by coordinating the races, and then celebrating them by putting on a party for all of Columbus.

“It’s about getting the whole community involved. It’s being all-inclusive,” lead coordinator Laura Chasse said.

Focus on youth

While the full marathon is still the defining event of the weekend, organizers want more middle- and high-school students to get involved, especially participating in the 5K.

Chasse said she hopes pulling the kids from the couch and video games now will help them develop a healthy lifestyle later.

“It’s a feeder into the half-marathon and then eventually, maybe, into the marathon,” planning committee member Andy Pajakowski said.

They’re hoping area schools will buy into their mission and encourage students to participate in the Kids Fun Run or the 5K. A $300 incentive goes to the school with the highest participation.

Register to run

Go to:

Information needed: Name, gender, age, birthday, shirt size, email, address, phone, emergency contact for race day, estimated finish time, payment information.

Marathon cost (includes T-shirt): $65 before June 30; $75 between July 1 and Aug. 15; $80 between Aug. 16 and

Sept. 24; $90 on Sept. 25, 26 and race day.

Half-marathon cost (includes T-shirt): $50 before June 30; $60 between July 1 and Aug. 15; $65 between Aug. 16 and Sept. 24; $75 on Sept. 25, 26 and race day.

5K cost (includes T-shirt): $20 before June 30; $25 between July 1 and

Sept. 24; $30 on Sept. 25, 26 and race day.

Kids Fun Run cost: Free with advanced registration; T-shirt available for $5.

Other: Online registration includes a 6.25 percent credit card processing fee. Registrants also agree that they are releasing liability for injuries and their photos can be used in promotion efforts.

Free training sessions

The Columbus Running Club offers a free, 17-week training program for beginners at both the half- and full-marathon distance.

To ensure safe and effective training, a proven progressive mileage increase schedule will be used.

The first seven weeks include classrooms sessions covering topics including shoes, cross-training, stretching, injury prevention, lessons learned, nutrition. Sessions also include a group run/walk.

WHEN: 7 a.m. Saturdays, beginning June 7

WHERE: Start at YES Cinema

MORE INFO: or visit

John Quick, superintendent of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said encouraging students to participate in the races fits in with the district’s fitness and wellness policies and health curriculum.

“It’s surely got a lot of students out moving,” he said. “There’s perfect alignment with what we’re doing, and we’re happy to be a partner.”


Marathon participants won’t be racing against top-flight runners from Ethiopia or Kenya this year — at least none that were intentionally recruited.

That speaks to the community nature and refocused mission of the event, Pajakowski said.

In fact, you may be racing against new runners. A training program offered through the Columbus Running Club offers a 17-week program aimed at beginners.

Randy Stafford, the overall coordinator of the marathon weekend for the running club, said the club has seen a 50 percent increase in people who have completed the training class.

Participants only need to be able to run — or run/walk — a mile to start the training program.

“You can do a lot more things than you thought you could,” Stafford said.

Not a runner?

No problem. This weekend is for you, too.

“Even if you don’t run or participate in the race, this is just another party downtown to celebrate the fact that we’re really trying to do something for this community,”

Chasse said.

Lessons learned

No one knew what to expect last year.

Organizers didn’t know how successful the shuttles would be to manage parking, or how traffic would be on the course.

The party died down before the music started and a group of runners at one point ended up off-course.

But no one seemed to mind, said Stafford, a planning committee member who takes care of the logistics.

That’s what he’s most proud of.

“None of the issues which came up during the event were visible to the participants,” he said.

But they were visible to the planners who had spent so much time trying to pull off the weekend without a hitch — so they’re making some changes.

There’s a new race director, a new logo and website and new ideas about making the second Mill Race running events even better.

A new start and finish line on Washington Street will feed runners right into the heart of the party, and the truck-giveaway will return — only this year, the drawing will be later in the evening.

That way participants can go home or to their hotel, take a nap, take a shower and then partake in the festivities.

Keeping the finish and start off Jackson and Brown streets also will provide easier access to parking garages and lots, such as the Cummins Corporate Office Building surface lot. The shuttles will be back by popular demand.

As will the children’s area outside of the downtown kidscommons museum, except it will be bigger this year.

“The kids’ area was really, really popular last year and we want to build on that,” Pajakowski said.

The Health Expo and packet pick-up — which organizers said was well-received last year — will be reduced from two days to just Friday. Organizers determined they could handle the capacity of the entire crowd in one day, and it would bring more people downtown for pre-race festivities and specials.

Building on successes

Organizers have already raised $273,000 from the top three sponsors — Cummins, MainSource Bank and Columbus Regional Health — as well as from other donors. That’s $100,000 more than last year.

And with that money, they can build on last year’s successes.

More proceeds will go back to Healthy Communities, an initiative to improve the health and quality of life of Bartholomew County residents, and the Columbus Park Foundation.

Other money will be used to reduce or eliminate the entry fee for students entering the 5K.

Additional money also will help the organizers invest in capital instead of renting it. They’ve already bought about 1,200 feet of pedestrian barricades for the start and finish area, which they’ve offered to the city to use for events such as the JCB NeighborFEST.

“We want to build on the success of last year’s race and help establish a self-sustaining race that people can enjoy for years to come,” Pajakowski said.

He thought back to his “ah-ha” moment of 2013.

“When that start went off, wow. It didn’t stop. It just kept going and going and going,” he said. “That was pretty awesome, to think of how many people passed that start line.”

It was almost 5,000 people — and organizers are looking for more this year.

Going the distance

26.2 miles

Full marathon

13.1 miles

 Half marathon

3.1 miles

 5K run/walk

1.24 miles

 Kids Fun Run for grades 5 and 6

0.93 miles

 Kids Fun Run  for grades 3 and 4

0.62 miles

 Kids Fun Run for grades 1 and 2

0.31 miles

 Kids Fun Run for prekindergarten and kindergarten

0.12 miles

 Kids Fun Run for toddlers

Changes at a glance

Youth: Organizers are placing more of an emphasis on youth this year by partnering with the local public schools to recruit students and paying for some youth entries into the 5K.

Community: The planning committee isn’t recruiting top-flight runners from Kenya or Ethiopia this year in efforts to keep the focus on Columbus.

Truck give-away: To keep people downtown longer, the truck drawing has been pushed back a few hours and will be at 5:30 p.m. this year.

Parking: Parking was a big unknown last year, but the shuttles that took people from satellite locations around the city to downtown were a big hit and will continue. Changing the start and finish lines from Jackson Street to Washington Street will also open up access to the Cummins Corporate Office Building surface lot and nearby parking garages.

Health and Fitness Expo: Organizers heard great feedback from last year’s expo, but they’re confident they can handle the crowd in one day. The Health and Fitness Expo will be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26.

T-shirts: Mill Race Marathon T-shirts are included in the cost of registration this year, but Kids Fun Run shirts will be an additional $5.

Website: A redesigned website with information about the race, community and other events can be found at

Race director: Joel Sauer, whose work has been on display the past 19 years as owner-director of the Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon, will be taking over the handling of the event from Ken Long and Associates.

Course: The course is still fast and flat, but there will be a new start/finish line and a few other minor changes to keep traffic flowing through neighborhoods.

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