COLUMBIA — There’s a new feature awaiting the nearly 800 runners expected to gather downtown Saturday morning for the 19th annual St. Pat’s 5K Run.
This is the first year the route has been certified by the USA Track and Field Commission, which gives runners the opportunity to record their times with professional accuracy.
Eric Bunch, of Tryathletics, said the certification is a draw for some runners.
The run, which is sponsored by Columbia Regional Hospital, KFRU and Tryathleticsbegins at 8 a.m. at Eighth and Ash streets.
Gaining the certification involved following a specific protocol, Bunch said. The protocol includes measuring the distance of the route with steel tape at least twice, according to the USA Track and Field Commission’s Web site. In addition, the track must be relatively free of traffic and on smooth pavement with a minimum distance of 300 meters.
Once the route has been plotted, a bike is used to calibrate the course and ensure it is safe. The person certifying the course must ride the bike eight times in both directions. Measurements of the course and an application for certification are submitted to the USA Track and Field Commission, which then issues a certificate.
Last year’s first-place runner, Steve MacIntyre, a city planner for the city of Columbia, is interested in taking advantage of the newly certified course.
MacIntyre, who is training for a May marathon in Ottawa, said he can use the St. Pat’s 5K Run to help train. Although he doesn’t think he’ll have the same outcome this year, the race is still important to him.
First-place overall winners will have their results posted on the Columbia Track Club’s Web site at ctc.coin.org and receive a $100 gift certificate for a pair of New Balance running shoes at Tryathletics. Proceeds from the race go to the track club.
“I think there might be a few talented runners who want a free pair of running shoes,” MacIntyre said.
The race is not limited to adult runners. Children under 14 are invited run for free in the Mayor’s Mile, a separate race in which all runners receive a blue ribbon and T-shirt.