COLUMBIA - The Columbia Track Club changed the course for its annual Heart of America Marathon this year. Although the previous course was considered one of the most beautiful and difficult in the country, Race Director Beth Luebbering decided it was time for a change.
"This year we decided to change up the start and the finish of the race. It boiled down to safety for our runners," Luebbering said. "We were a little bit concerned about some of the intersections that we had at the finish on the last course. This year we are finishing on the trail and over by Reactor Park, so a little bit less traffic area."
The change not only directs runners away from the intersection at Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard, but frees up the finish line to have a better post race area.
"It also gives us more space for finish line activities, off of busy roads." Luebbering said.
While the race now avoids the Providence and Stadium intersection, it still runs along Providence road and crosses Nifong Boulevard and Green Meadows Road.
"We will have police officers all along the course where runners are still dealing with traffic," Luebbering said. "But we're have police officers out there to monitor traffic and keep our runners safe."
Luebbering and the track club have taken every precaution to ensure the safety of the course, especially along Providence.
"We know Providence is a busy road in Columbia, it's one of the main traveled streets," Luebbering said. "But Columbia Police Officers have been very kind to donate their time, off-duty police officers, so they will be manning the major intersections at Providence and Nifong and Providence and Green Meadows and we also have aid station volunteers at other intersections to make sure both runners and motorists are all safe."
The race runs along Providence Road towards the beginning and end of the route, but veers off so it finishes in Reactor Park, which will be closed off to motor traffic.