November 23, 2012

New criterium-style race aims to lure runners to Columbia’s Main Street

A new criterium-style 8K running race is planned for Columbia’s Main Street Dec. 8

A new type of road race is coming to Columbia next month – a cycling-like criterium.

The Main Street Crit on Dec. 8 actually is a cross between a track event and a road race, with runners doing laps on a 1-kilometer circuit in downtown Columbia. The goal is to encourage healthy activity while also bringing more people downtown on a December night.

While the term “criterium” is most often associated with cycling events, a few running criteriums have begun popping up in the United States. Longtime cycling events in Boulder, Colo., and Athens, Ga., for instance, have added running components in recent years.

But this is a first for Columbia’s running scene.

Organizers hope there’s an appetite for a night race with downtown atmosphere, said race director Alicia Buffum.

The course will start and end at the Mast General store on Main Street, with runners in the 8K doing eight laps of a rectangular course bounded by Main, Hampton, Sumter and Blanding streets. Buffum believes that will make the crit a better race for friend-and-family spectators, who will get to cheer their favorites eight times rather than just once or twice on a true road course.

The event will start at 7 p.m. with a free kids fun run, with youngsters making one lap of the course. The open 8K race hits the streets at 7:30 p.m. and a feature 8K for elite-level runners begins at 9 p.m.

The races are incorporated into Mayor Steve Benjamin’s Let’s Move, Columbia effort to encourage physical fitness, and organizers see a bonus in terms of bringing more people to Main Street on a weekend night. In fact, runners might be salivating as they pass restaurants such as Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse, Villa Tronco and Hampton Street Vineyard.

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