SCHENECTADY — Organizers of the MVP Stockade-athon have made a profound change to how purse money will be distributed as they aim to encourage top local runners to participate.
The 15k race has prided itself on bringing elite runners from a wide geographical range, but the prize money will be restricted to residents of counties roughly equating to New York state's Section II region for high schools, along with a few counties in Massachusetts and Vermont.
The 42nd annual 15k will kick off at 8:30 Sunday morning on State Street adjacent to the MVP building.
One of the new race directors, Ed Neiles, said on Tuesday that pre-registered entries were at 1,671 , with online registration continuing through 7 p.m. on Friday. There will also be walk-up registration from 4-7 on Friday at the Schenectady YMCA on State Street.
The pre-registration total on Tuesday already surpasses last year's total sign-ups of 1,583, which Neiles attributed to a greater presence promoting the race on social media. The total number of Stockade-athon finishers typically is about 90 percent of the final registration number due to drop-outs and no-shows.
The record for number of finishers is 1,871, in 2013.
The Stockade-athon awards prize money to the top four male and female finishers in both open and masters categories, ranging from $600 for first to $100 for fourth. There is also prize money for age-graded and team results.
For the first time, the prize money will be limited to residents of Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Fulton, Greene, Columbia, Schoharie, Montgomery, Saratoga, Warren or Washington counties in New York, or Bennington County in Vermont and Berkshire County in Massachusetts. Runners who have been members of the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club since before June 1 are also eligible regardless of residency.
Neiles, who is a co-race director with Brian and Jessica Northan, Ray Newkirk and Jon Rocco, said organizers have met with some backlash over the prize money change.
"It is causing a real ruckus among a lot of people, but that's the decision they made," he said. "They're just trying something different. There are a lot of local people and area runners who would like to take home $600. You won't see a lot of the hotshots of the past.
"There's two schools of thought on this."
Although there are several top-quality runners committed to the Stockade-athon, the lack of prize eligibility likely will discourage elite out-of-towners from running. For instance, the 2016 men's champion, former Niskayuna High star Lou Serafini, would not be in line for prize money, since he lives in Brighton, Mass.
The race has added a few other new features and tweaks. Three-person teams can sign up for a relay in which each runs a 5k leg while competing for the Stockade-athon Cup. Neiles said they only have seven teams signed up so far.
"We were just hoping to give it a spin drive to drive up the participation numbers," Neiles said.
The kid's run has also been shortened from a mile to a half-mile in an attempt to boost participation.
Stockade-athon officials are encouraging runners to pick up their race packets at FleetFeet Albany on Wolf Road from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday to help the event go smoothly on Sunday. Packet pick-up, post-race refreshments and the 11 a.m. awards ceremony on Sunday will be held at the Schenectady YMCA.
Great Flats Brewery on Lafayette Street will be open to runners 21-and-over who will get a complimentary beer if they show their bib numbers after the race.