Mill Race Marathon charting new course

Big changes will be afoot from the start when the Mill Race Marathon returns for its 10th running in September, event planners have announced.

Gathering Wednesday for the first community-wide planning session for Columbus’ largest participatory event, organizers said the marathon — which was canceled in 2019 and abbreviated with just a half-marathon last year due to COVID — will return at full stride in a new format with what likely will be its largest start ever.

That’s because unlike past races, participants in the full 26-mile marathon, the 13-mile half-marathon and the 5K fun run all will start at the same time at the same start-finish line near The Commons on Washington Street. In prior years, 5K runners started about a half-hour after marathon and half-marathon entrants.

“Everyone is going to run the first 2.2 miles together,” said Mill Race Marathon event coordinator Joel Sauer. That will include crossing over Flatrock River on Third Street, then doubling back across the the Robert N. Stewart Bridge that carries State Road 46 east.

At that point, runners in the 5K will split from the pack, heading north on Brown Street to complete their 3.1-mile loop. Half-marathon and full marathon participants, meanwhile, will proceed on State Road 46 through downtown, following its route all the way to State Street and beyond.

Also running counter to past marathons, this year’s route will no longer proceed toward Columbus Municipal Airport. Sauer said based on feedback from runners, the route has been redirected toward neighborhoods in the central city, along residential streets downtown and to the north in areas mainly between Washington and Chestnut streets.

“It’s going to make the whole event more consolidated,” Sauer said.

The more compact course also should lessen traffic restrictions for the 7:30 a.m. start. All runners should be off of State Road 46 after about an hour or so, he said. Further, runners on the route will no longer encounter traffic on U.S. 31.

Sauer said the new route of the full marathon will cross U.S. 31 at Marr Road, but runners will be on the People Trail at that point, which goes beneath the highway. The route then will double back south on Marr Road at Kensington Boulevard. Marathon runners will be on the People Trail for more than five miles.

The half-marathon, which Sauer said draws the most participants, will no longer cross U.S. 31. The half-marathon will be on the People Trail for only about a mile.

Planning committee director Laura Dudukovich said that at this point, registrations for the Sept. 24 are running at the highest point ever. She said she believes that coming out of COVID-19 restrictions and the event marking its 10th anniversary are part of what explains the heightened early interest.

Wednesday’s meeting drew together event organizers, law enforcement, health care, city officials, sponsors and facilitators in the first of what’s expected to be several planning sessions leading up to the event.