The Stockade-athon course is changing, becoming a less-challenging race held at an earlier time.
If the new route is approved by the city, runners will start on the State Street hill, next to MVP Health Care, and run downhill toward the Stockade neighborhood.
The change eliminates the painful uphill run on State Street. It also highlights the 15K race’s new title sponsor, MVP.
The race is tentatively scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., rather than 9, and runners are expected to be off State Street by 8:45. The road would reopen immediately, allowing churchgoers to get to services on time.
In the past, some churchgoers have complained how difficult it is every year to get around the race in time for church services. State Street has been generally closed until 9:45 a.m. or later.
The route would still go through Central and Vale parks, but would end by City Hall on Franklin Street. The final 11⁄2 miles would be downhill, allowing for faster, easier finishes, according to race director Vince Juliano.
“It’s going to be good for the runners, downhill at the end. We anticipate the runners will like this. It will be a fast finish, and when they’re tired, they’ll be running downhill,” he said.
While those changes could significantly change race times, most of the course will remain the same.
“They’ll be running the Stockade-athon course in general, in reverse order,” Juliano said.
He added that the change will give runners more space to park in the many downtown lots. The race has grown in recent years from 1,200 to nearly 2,000 runners, he said, and has outgrown its traditional start in Central Park.
“We’re running out of parking in Central Park,” he said, “and the pavilion, it really can’t hold the 2,000 people who are coming in for post-race refreshments. We had really long lines.”
Churchgoers have long pressed him to start the race earlier, and it was moved in recent years from 10:30 to 9 a.m., but he said he was reluctant to make people stand in the cold any earlier on a November morning.
Now that the race is starting downtown, he plans to use Key Hall as a warming station for runners before the race. Refreshments would be served there after the race.
“They’ll have the opportunity to go indoors for refreshments. And in November, that’s a good deal,” he said.
That’s why he’s willing to start the race earlier, he added.
“The police have always asked us to start the race as early as possible,” he said.
Plans aren’t finalized until he gets the race permit, which he is planning to apply for later this month.
“But we expect it to go through,” he said, adding that he has had talks with city officials. “The pluses really outweighed the minuses.”
The other big change is that the Daily Gazette is no longer the title sponsor. This year, MVP has taken the honor. Denise Gonick, president and CEO at MVP Health Care, said the company chose to sponsor the race because of its mission.
“At MVP Health Care, we have a vision of creating the healthiest communities in America. A significant part of that vision is partnering with local agencies to provide health and wellness opportunities for residents in the communities we serve,” she said.
The race will be held Nov. 9.