Columbia, SC — While planning for its second year, the Columbia SC Marathon ran into a roadblock.
The March 9 race, scheduled to start and end at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, would have had to contend with car and pedestrian traffic for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus has three shows scheduled that day at the adjacent Colonial Life Arena.
“That was going to affect parking,” Dan Hartley, the marathon’s director said. “That was going to affect the running on Lincoln Street in front of the Colonial Life Arena and having the expo at the convention center. So we needed to look at other options.”
Hartley thought about moving the marathon and its associated races to another Saturday, but there was no room on the road. On March 16, Get to Green, which boasts being the largest road race in the Midlands, opens the St. Pat’s in Five Points festival. And this Saturday’s The Color Run, a race that blasts runners with colored cornstarch, is expecting as many as 6,000 participants.
The relatively recent popularity surge of running in the Midlands made Hartley’s decision to keep the original date a cakewalk.
“Getting any later than St. Patty’s day, and you start conflicting with other races, so it was pretty obvious we had to stick with that weekend,” he said.
Tour De Columbia, a race series compiled by the Columbia Running Club, consisted of about 20 races five years ago.
“In the past five years, that’s expanded to over 40,” said Alex McDonald, the club’s president. “Basically, any weekend you can find a 5K to run around Columbia. Often more than one.”
Besides The Color Run, which doesn’t time runners, there are four other 5K races in the Midlands on Saturday. McDonald, who blogs about running at tourdeblueshoes.com, races almost every Saturday morning.
The running club, established in 1968, has increased its membership 100 percent in the last year to almost 200 people, McDonald said. Not all the runners are competitive. In fact, many are casual runners who see a social benefit in running.
“People come not necessarily to compete, but to see their friends, to start the weekend off on a good note,” McDonald said.
Also a competitive runner, Hartley said running has rewards people can share.
“If you can get in shape, be healthier (and) lose some weight while you’re having fun with your friends, that’s the ticket right there,” he said.
Large road races can provide a boost to the local economy. Based on the more than 4,500 registered for The Color Run and the expected additional runners, the Columbia Regional Sports Council projects the race will have an estimated economic impact of between $195,000 and $255,000.
“We’re in the business of drawing meetings, conventions and events to the Columbia region and what a fun one this is,” said Ric Luber, the president and CEO of the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism. “Getting feet in the street and heads in beds only further increases our goal of boosting the local economy.”
Instead of moving its date, the marathon chose to alter its course. In what has become a fortuitous twist, the finish line is now at the corner of Main and Gervais streets. The health expo and packet pick-up the night before the race will be at the Columbia Marriott.
To complete the marathon, runners will sprint down tree-lined Main Street, and the post-race festivities will be held on the North Lawn of the State House.
“Which is what I wanted to do from the very, very beginning,” Hartley said. “If you’re going to have a marathon here, what better place to have a finish line?”
Saturday’s local races
The Color Run, the untimed 5K run that requires runners to start the race in white, begins and ends at Finlay Park. Runners will be sprayed with colored cornstarch; thecolorrun.com/columbia
Diabetes Awareness 5k Run/Walk precedes South Carolina Cornbread Festival; www.sccornbreadfestival.com
March for Meals, a 5K run/walk benefiting Meals on Wheels, at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden; www.seniorresourcesinc.org
Race Judicata, a 5K run/walk sponsored by the Women in Law Association of the USC law school; www.strictlyrunning.com
Lace Up and Face It, Palmetto Health Foundation’s Colorectal Walk and Race 5K, starts at Maxcy Gregg Park; www.colorectalcancerwalk.org
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362. Sources: Compiled from www.colarunclub.com and www.strictlyrunning.com