Vince Juliano went running through Vale Park, when he noticed something unusual: the path was freshly paved.
The wheels started turning in his head, and the idea that formed was another significant change to the historic Gazette Stockade-athon race course.
Pending approval from the city of Schenectady, the dreaded State Street hill will be history — at least as part of the Stockade-athon course — when the 37th annual 15k is held on Nov. 11.
The Stockade-athon race director is still waiting for the city to return a permit reflecting the course changes, but if he gets the go-ahead, the race will be diverted off State Street for the most part to the refurbished bike path through the heart of Vale Park and Vale Cemetery.
Juliano has assurances that a remaining 680-foot section of pot-holed, gravelly path will be paved to connect the new path in the park to the paved section in the cemetery.
That will give Stockade-athon runners a more scenic — but still rigorous — uphill from lower State Street to Brandywine Avenue. It will also make the route that much more manageable for police and course marshals.
“It’s better, safer, there’s less disruption for drivers, and the runners will like it,” Juliano said on Wednesday.
The State Street hill used to extend all the way up to Fehr Avenue before heading back into Central Park, but was shortened a few years ago by entering Vale Cemetery near Moyston Street.
The new change brings the turn off State all the way down to Clinton Street just past Proctors Theater, and the runners will head up Franklin Street and cross Nott Terrace straight into Vale Park.
To accommodate the shift and keep the course at 15k without moving the start and finish very much, there will also be a significant diversion shortly after the start of the race.
Instead of passing back through the finish chute in Central Park on the way up to Central Park Middle School, the runners will head around the Duck Pond and up two rolling hills, the same ones used at the end of the course.
After crossing Union Street on McClellan Street, the field will immediately turn left down Rugby Road, instead of continuing to Nott Street, and use Rugby to get to Lenox Road, where they’ll turn right and connect to Nott. Then they’ll use the traditional route down to and through the Stockade before turning up State.
This plan gets the field, which set a record for participation for the fifth year in a row in 2011 with 1,603 runners, off a busy portion of Nott Street at Ellis Hospital.
“It’s a win-win because we’re making the course better without losing the character of it, and we’re actually making that better, too,” Juliano said.
“When you’re going through Vale Park, you don’t even know you’re in the city. You’re fighting your own demons up the hill, but at least you won’t be surrounded by cars or facing road rage.”
The start will be shifted 20-30 feet, but will still be adjacent to the Rose Garden, and the finish will still be at the Casino near the big pavilion.
Once Juliano gets the permit from the city, the course will be re-measured and certified by USA Track and Field.