Half marathon is a go
Rochester was this close to losing the Rochester Half Marathon and 5K.
Well, within a day or two — right on the edge of postponing for a year or canceling all together.
"I would say we were right up (if not beyond) the deadline to cut bait on the race,'' said Jean Murray, a race director for this year's race. "It was touch and go.''
But this year's race is still on. The 28th annual half marathon is scheduled for Aug. 25, starting at 8:10 a.m. A 5K has an 8 a.m. start.
The half marathon is one of Rochester's top races of the year; last year, in fact, it drew 594 registrations.
But the Rochester Track Club, which sponsors the race, faced a "trifecta'' of challenges this year, according to Murray.
"Our race director last year, Jen Woodford, stepped down in light of her new role as director of Channel One,'' Murray said. "A longtime track club member and former race director Renee Saxman moved to California and her loss has been felt.
"Finally, last year we promised the city and Minnesota Department of Transportation that we'd abandon the established race routes, which start and run briefly on Broadway.''
What to do? The track club hired Mastel Event Management from Minneapolis to manage the race.
"The track club will still be heavily involved,'' said Brian Mastel, owner of Mastel Event Managment. "We were hired basically to manage the event.''
Mastel has plenty of experience. He was the race director for the Twin Cities Marathon from 2004 to 2010 and is involved in 16 other events, including marathons in Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
Mastel was hired in early July, a late date but still manageable, according to Mastel.
His first duty was to find a new race course.
"You have to give credit to Dave Phillips of the track club,'' said Mastel, "because he did most of the leg work. There were a number of areas we had to avoid because of road construction.''
There will be no running on highways or no crossing of train tracks. Runners should find the new route intriguing.
It starts on the Peace Plaza, which has never been done before, and heads out to Kutzky Park and then the Cascade Lake bike trail. From there, it's up to Historic Hills, down to the bike trail along Salem Road and then the Mayowood bike trail on the way back to the finish behind the Mayo Civic Center.
"I ran the half marathon here a number of years ago, but was forced to drop out with an injury,'' Mastel said. "But that was a different course. I think this new one is going to be one that runners will like.
"I like starting at the Peace Plaza and there's not many finishing areas nicer than Mayo Civic.''
The 5K also starts at Peace Plaza, goes through the Soliders Field neighborhood and out to the Maywood bike trail across from Toys R Us before heading back.
Last year, the two races drew 594 registrations and the year before 567.
This year, according to Murray, there is 300 registrations as of Tuesday.
Both race routes have been USATF certified.
Dan Greeno of Roseville won last year's half marathon in 1:06.34. Regina Horak of St. Paul was the women's winner in 1:22.26.