Changes are on the way for the 43rd Governor’s Cup, including a new race route that for the first time will take runners through parts of Richland and Lexington counties as well as and an expansion of the event into two days.
The changes, which will go into effect next year, also include moving the Midlands’ largest running race to mid-May annually from fall to avoid conflicts with other established events, such as USC football games. The new weekend-long format will feature the main half-marathon event on Saturday – in 2016, on May 14 – and conclude some time Sunday with other activities, according to officials.
“We went through a lengthy planning process deciding what we thought the future of the event should be like,” said Russ Pate, director of the Governor’s Cup and president of the Carolina Marathon Association. “The fall in Columbia offers a lot of activities that you have to avoid dealing with. We ultimately decided that a date in mid-May is the most compatible in growing the event.”
Event organizers hope growing race participation will boost Columbia area tourism. Last year’s race attracted some 2,000 participants including the ancillary events.
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The new route design will physically connect runners to the many notable attractions and sites in central Columbia before crossing the Congaree River, for the first time in the event’s history, into Lexington County, Pate said.The new route, which has not been finalized, will include streets along the east and west sides of the Congaree River. Other details were not available.
In recent years, the route took runners from downtown Columbia into neighborhoods primarily around Shandon and Forest Acres before finishing at the University of South Carolina Horseshoe.
“As we design, we are going to do what we can to bring the course’s past sites that are notable into it,” Pate said. “But we want it to connect Richland and Lexington county areas and make it an event that reflects positively on the greater-Columbia area.”
Andrea Mensink, director of communications for the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports and Tourism, said several things still need to happen with permitting before the race route is finalized, but the redesigned route will offer something new and exciting for participants.
“It was a very well laid-out course and it showcases the established neighborhoods in the community, but there are so many beautiful routes that Columbia has to offer,” Mensink said of revising the route.
Some new events also are planned beginning with next year’s race. In addition to the traditional half-marathon, there also will be a 5K run and walk and a club competition for competitive racing teams. Events featured last year, including an 8K run, 3-mile walk and kids’ run, also are planned for 2016.
“Our goal at the Carolina Marathon Association is to have the event as encouraging and accessible to the broadest range of runners possible and to include walkers,” Pate said. “As we are doing that, the Governor’s Cup is still going to be a highly competitive athletic event.”
Organizers hope a race weekend each spring will allow participants, both local and out of town, to be fully involved in the event and still have an opportunity to explore Columbia.
Scott Powers, executive director of the Columbia Regional Sports Council, said his organization will look at the event’s economic impact with the new changes.
According to the event’s economic impact calculator, attendees spent more than $150,000 in lodging, transportation, retail and food and beverage while in Columbia. By having a concrete spring date, Powers said, officials are hoping those numbers continue to grow.
“We love to have day visitors,” Powers said, “but the spending is exponentially higher for night visitors.”
The Governor’s Cup was the first major running event in the Midlands when it was started in 1973 by the Columbia Running and Jogging Club at the request of then Gov. John C. West, who wanted to encourage fitness by celebrating National Jogging Day. It has changed through the years, starting with a 15-mile event and adding other distances through the years.
Reach Cahill at (803) 771-8305.
Changes for Governor’s Cup
Among changes that will occur with the 2016 event:
New race route that will include Lexington and Richland counties
Expansion of the event to two days each spring
New race events, including a 5K run/walk