Over the course of 36 years, the Gazette Stockade-athon has been tweaked here and there in an attempt to make it a better racing experience for runners.
Perhaps not inconsequentially, the 15k race smashed the record for participation by drawing 1,603 finishers last year.
That doesn’t mean that race organizers rested on their laurels, though.
Race director Vince Juliano said he’s expecting another big crowd — possibly another record — when the 37th annual Stockade-athon starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
What the runners will find is a significantly altered course, as well as several other subtle changes designed to better accommodate the needs of both the elite athletes and the average runners who are just out for a fun time.
One of the big course changes occurs in the first half of the race and is designed to get off a busy part of Nott Street, and the other cuts out State Street hill, the long, straight incline from just past Proctors Theater to Vale Cemetery on State Street, and a traditional element of the course.
Instead of running down McClellan Street to Grand Boulevard, the runners will turn left onto Rugby Road shortly after mile 2.
They’ll reach Nott by weaving through Wendell Avenue, Douglas Road and Lenox Road, which means the course no longer goes past Schenectady High School and Ellis Hospital.
The second big course change will occur shortly after crossing Erie Boulevard on the way back to Central Park.
Instead of staying on State Street all the way up to Vale Cemetery, the runners will turn left on Clinton Street and right on Franklin Street, which is pretty much aligned with the entrance to Vale Park once you cross Nott Terrace.
The changes were made to make the course safer and more manageable for police and course marshals.
Although the field will still have to cross busy Nott Terrace, the change takes the intersection of Nott Terrace and State Street, the site of much delayed-driver consternation over the years, out of the picture.
Drivers on Sunday morning still should be aware of street closings and delays between 9 and 11 a.m.
Among them are:
Central Parkway; Ashmore Avenue; Bradley Boulevard (west); McClellan Street between Bradley and Rugby Road; Nott Street (east) from Lenox to Erie Boulevard; Front Street and Washington Avenue in the Stockade; State Street from the Scotia bridge to Lafayette Street; Franklin and Clinton streets; Brandywine Avenue between Becker Street and Bradley Street; and Duck Pond Drive, Ashmore Avenue and Central Parkway in the park.
Runners will also notice a change at the start, which has been moved back adjacent to the Rose Garden to preserve the 15k distance affected by the other course changes.
This year, there will be 50 yards of roped stanchions to create separate lanes for the men and women.
“It’s something that has evolved,” Juliano said. “Over the last several years, the women’s field has grown, so it’s 50-50. It used to be 70-30.
“And the times are getting better. We have 1,600 runners. Men crowd out women, that’s just the way it is. These women at the top are near-professional athletes. They deserve their own start, they deserve their own space. They deserve to look alongside of them and say, ‘These people are the people that I have to beat.’ You could have five guys crowding, and three behind them that you can’t see . . . those days are over. Women deserve the same attention at races as men do, and they’re going to get it here.”
Other changes include a medical tent at the finish and an additional chip timing mat at the 5k, so that not only will runners have a net chip time, but they’ll be able to get 5k and 10k split times in the official results.
“We didn’t use a 5k mat before because it would’ve been right in front of Ellis Hospital, and I didn’t think that was a good idea, but now it’s going to be on Lenox Road in a quiet area,” Juliano said. “The runner can look at their splits and decide where they slowed down or where they sped up. Also, from our perspective, because we’re giving out competitive awards, we’re making sure nobody’s cheating. You have to cross all of those mats. People do those kinds of things, believe it or not. If you think they’re not, you’re very naive, especially when you’re talking about money prizes.”
The medical tent will be staffed by three or four volunteer physicians and paramedics.
“Hopefully, they’re sitting around with nothing to do. But we have a very enhanced medical presence,” Juliano said.
There is no day-of-race registration, and on-line registration is closed.
Runners are urged to pick up their race packets from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday at The Daily Gazette, 2345 Maxon Road. That’s also the venue for last-chance registration.
Packet pickup in the park on Sunday begins at 7 a.m.