There's no better way to shake off a hangover and begin that New Year's diet than with a brisk trot along the frozen banks of the Scioto River.
The Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon is sweetening the pot by holding a special "Beat the Director" event Jan. 1.
The goal is to best Darris Blackford, the official race director, in the third annual River Run 5K along the multipurpose path.
Those who finish ahead of Blackford get free entry into the 2011 marathon and half marathon.
But watch out: Blackford is good. He said he recently clocked himself at 20:30 in the roughly 3-mile run. He said that would have earned him 12th place in last year's race.
"I was pleased to be around 20 minutes with nobody chasing me," he said.
The race starts at 11 a.m. at Northbank Park, 300 W. Spring St. All are invited to attend, but registration is necessary and can be done at riverrun 5k11.eventbrite.com. Registration for the marathon opens at noon. Special registration pricing is available through the end of June.
Participants must meet age eligibility requirements. Should injury or illness befall Blackford, the offer is null and void.
Blackford, a Clintonville resident, ran his first marathon in 1991 and completed 150 since then.
"I was never one of those track guys who was super fast but I can hold my own," he said.
He said even if it's cold, runners shouldn't overdress. He suggests wearing running pants, layered, long-sleeved shirts and a hat.
There was a record number of runners in last year's race - 5,000 for the full marathon and 10,000 in the half. The goal is to increase the total number of runners by 2,000, or 1,000 in each race, Blackford said.
Fellow marathon runner Paul Carringer said he's known Blackford for years and considers him a formidable opponent.
Carringer, also of Clintonville, also plans to challenge him on New Year's Day.
"It just brings so much more color and excitement to the Columbus Marathon," he said. "I think it's a great idea. I think it's awesome that Darris is putting himself on the line as director."