When talking to Mark Bongers about the upcoming Med City Marathon he mentions the word “change.”
“Sometimes change is good and sometimes change is not so good,’ said Bongers, the race director for the May 26 race. “In our case, we didn’t have a choice. We had to make some changes and I will say this, if you thought the race has gotten a bit stale the past few years, just give this one a try.
“There have been tons of changes, and I think all for the better. I can’t wait.”
The main reason for all of the changes is due to something we’re all familiar with — road construction.
Think about this: It’s next to impossible to lay out a 26.2-mile course in and around Rochester without the dreaded “road under construction” sign.
“The road construction problems we faced just started to escalate once we were made aware of them back in January,” said Bongers, “and we’ve been working like crazy ever since. I believe we have addressed all of them and I’m over-the-top excited to see how it all turns out.”
The biggest change is the start for all of the races — including the marathon, half marathon, 20-mile and relays. Since 2011 those races started in Byron and twisted and turned their way back into Rochester.
This year, runners will start near the Rochester International Airport at the International Events Center and then head north to Rochester. It’s a mild version of the Byron trek.
“There were a couple of steep hills along old Highway 14 in between Byron and Rochester,” said Bongers, “and runners this year should be excited because the first eight miles are basically down hill. Then it flattens out. This is going to be a pretty fast course.”
The Med City Marathon was founded by Wally and Peg Arnold in 1996. Soldiers Field was the central point for the race in the early days, both with the start and finish.
Eventually the YMCA took over and for three years, the race finished next to its building.
The Arnolds came back into the picture in 2011 and the start was pushed to Byron. Runners eventually made their way to the Mayo Civic Center finish line.
Now this. Once the runners reach Rochester from the International Events Center they will make a big circle around Rochester and finish at a new finish line, at the corner of Civic Center Drive and Second St. SW, right next to the Civic Center Arena and across from the Rochester Public Library.
And if you’ve been downtown lately, you know all about the construction and with it, the lack of parking. In fact, the parking garage next to the library is closed and parking along several side streets is hit-and-miss.
On Saturday, May 25, it revs up a notch.
For the first time, graduations for three Rochester high schools — Century, Mayo and John Marshall — have been moved to Memorial Day weekend, at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Those graduations, which will move back next year to their traditional spot in June, will be held at the Mayo Civic Arena.
The nearby Farmer’s Market? Yes, it will be held that Saturday morning as well.
“No doubt parking will be at a premium on Saturday,” said Bongers, “but on Sunday, I don’t foresee too many problems.”
To accommodate, times for several Saturday events have been adjusted.
The popular 5k will move from a late Saturday start to 9 a.m. The Med City Fitness Expo and packet pickup (in the Civic Center Exhibit Hall) will run from 8 a.m. to an earlier finish time at 3 p.m.
The family walk on Saturday has a 10:30 a.m. start and the Kids Marathon is scheduled for 11:45 a.m.
The Toddler Trot (1 p.m.), Diaper Dash (1:10) and Mascot Races (1:20) have also been pushed up.
“Is this a perfect solution? Who knows,” said Bongers, “but this is the best we can do. City officials and the people from Mayo Civic have been understanding and outstanding in working with us.”
Bongers said registrations for all of the races are around 1,700, or down a bit from the past.
“I know there has been a lot of uncertainty,” he said, “but I really expect those numbers (registrations) to pick up.”
Runners being runners, they are apt to watch the weather forecast before committing.
In 2006 the race was halted midway due to extreme heat and last year the marathon was scratched because of the conditions. An expanded half marathon field was scheduled instead.
“We can adjust for a lot of things,” said Bongers, “but weather, obviously, is something we can’t control. We can only hope.”