Call it the seven year itch, but the St. Vincent Geist Half Marathon & 5K is making some major changes for this year’s “Race around the Reservoir” on May 17.
Fresh on the heels of last May’s race, organizers reconvened in August with survey responses from participants, volunteers and sponsors. After a board of directors restructuring, a new committee was formed called “Customer Experience” under the direction of board member and former Disney/Amazon executive Tim Rauschenbach.
“Our committee’s goal is to ensure that our event ‘wows’ our participants during each interaction leading up to, during and even after our event,” said Rauschenbach.
After a realignment of duties by the all-volunteer board of directors, a renaissance occurred. “Nothing was off the table,” said Geist Half Marathon President Matt Troyer. “We looked at the entire participant experience, the course, registration, entertainment and refreshments.”
The result: A new and improved St. Vincent Geist Half Marathon & 5K.
Perhaps the biggest change to this year’s race is the course changes for both the 13.1 mile and 5K race. Both the half marathon and 5K races will start at the same time on the Olio Road Bridge over Geist Reservoir. Runners will be divided by the median on Olio.
When they reach 104th Street, 5K runners will go east and cut back through the Weatherstone/Canal Place neighborhoods while the half marathon runners will continue west through Cambridge as in previous years. “We feel that having both races start at the same time will add even more excitement to the festivities,” added Troyer.
While the first 3 1/2 miles of the half marathon is the same as past years, participants will now go north on Brooks School Road and run through the Hawthorns and Masthead II returning on Fall Creek Road back through Cambridge to the southeast parking lot at 116th and Olio Road near the start line.
Troyer explains that this adjustment streamlines the race for participants and volunteers alike. “With an out-and-back course, we eliminate the need for shuttles to transport runners and spectators. Everyone can park at the schools and churches to the north and walk to and from the start/finish line. But probably the biggest perk of ending the race where we start is the ability to host a bigger post-race party.”
At the time of writing, the course is being USTAF sanctioned and measured, so the exact finish line and water stop locations are not yet known. Rauschenbach assures participants that the course will be more entertaining and lively than years past. “We heard in our surveys that people enjoyed our bands, drumlines and cheerleading corps along the way. We’re going to take that to a whole new level this year.”
In years past, Hamilton Southeastern High School has been the host of packet pick-up on the Friday night before the race. This year, St. Vincent Fishers Hospital plans to play host to a day-long packet pickup in their recently opened facility just north of the start line. With expanded hours, seminars throughout the day and a fully staffed cafeteria, St. Vincent Fishers is anxious to showcase their facilities and sports performance professionals. On race day, packet pickup will be conveniently located at the start/finish line in the southeast parking lot near 116th and Olio Road (Casler’s Kitchen & Bar).
Most schools in the area will be kicking off their spring training programs in February or April, funded from proceeds donated by the Geist Half Marathon. With this year’s contribution of $60,000 ($30,000 to Hamilton Southeastern School Foundation and $30,000 to Lawrence Township School Foundation), the Geist Half Marathon has now raised over $300,000 for Geist area schools in just six years.
Organizers are looking for runners or walkers who have competed in all six of the previous races and plan to make the May 17th race their seventh. When registering, please checkmark the “7 Year Club” box, so that your participation can be verified. Once it is confirmed, you will be contacted about a special event being planned for the week of the race.
To register for this year’s race, visit GeistHalf.com. Price is $60 for the half marathon and $30 for the 5K through the end of February.