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Trains may alter marathon routes

The course of the Mill Race Marathon may lose its namesake a few years from now.

The CSX and Louisville & Indiana Railroads can’t commit to keep trains from running through the downtown area during the annual late-September running event after next year, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

That’s when as many as 22 trains a day start going through the park, compared to eight now.

But just because the railroads can’t make that commitment now doesn’t mean they won’t make it later, Mill Race Marathon Organizing Committee member Randy Stafford said.

After a stopped locomotive disrupted the 2014 marathon, the railroads committed to a 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. window where trains would not come through the park and downtown area, Stafford said.

Because substantially more trains will begin coming through Columbus by late next year, the committee is already planning a new route for the 5K race in subsequent years, taking participants up Washington Street and looping around the Donner Park area before they return downtown, Stafford said.

Such a change would enable the committee to request only a two-hour, train-free window between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. on race day, which Stafford said would be sufficient to ensure the half and full marathon runners get through the park.

“There’s room for optimism they’ll approve our request,” race coordinator Joel Sauer said. “But if it doesn’t happen, it’s not a huge deal. The impact on the course would be minor.”

After being made aware of the potential problem several months ago, the marathon’s planning committee drew up a number of contingency plans, committee lead Laura Chasse said.

Even before the increasing train traffic was announced last fall, organizers had already laid out an alternative course for the full marathon in case Mill Race Park became flooded, Stafford said.

While fine-tuning may be required, Stafford doesn’t expect any problems regarding the 26.2-mile…

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