As he was watching a Columbus Crush soccer game – a team that would precede the Columbus Crew – then-City Attorney Greg Lashutka had an idea.
Lashutka, who would go onto to be mayor of Columbus, thought it wasn’t good for a growing city not to have a world-class marathon.
Lashutka enlisted the help of Michael Van Buskirk of Banc One and assistant city attorney Bob Bell to get the wheels moving, gathering support from the city and the corporate community.
It worked: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon, which will be held Sunday, Oct. 20.
“One thing led to another and the marathon became a reality and continues,” Lashutka said. “It’s viewed as a top-quality run for those who attend. The people of Columbus do what they do in a number of events: They show the runners the best of the city.”
The race begins at 7:30 a.m. at North Bank Park at the intersection of Neil and Long streets and wends its way through neighborhoods such as German Village to the south, Upper Arlington to the north, Grandview Heights to the west and Bexley to the east.
The course remains largely unchanged from past years, said Morgen Spon, director of community partnerships for Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Patient champions, current or former patients of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, will be stationed at 24 of the 26 mile markers, sharing their personal experiences, Spon said.
In addition, the Encore Mile will honor former patient champions, and the Angel Mile will commemorate those who have died.
At mile 20, when runners often “hit the wall” – or experience extreme fatigue – White Castle will have a mock castle, open in the center, with live-action cosplayers in medieval costumes encouraging the runners to complete the marathon, Spon said.
About 18,000 runners will participate, with an expected 100,000 spectators lining the course and cheering on the participants.
“If the weather’s great, that’s a good thing, and the numbers grow,” race director Darris Blackford said.
Blackford said officials expect to reach the $10 million mark this year in fundraising and sponsorship since Nationwide Children’s Hospital became the beneficiary of the race in 2012.
He said race organizers have made the Columbus race one of the top marathons in the country.
“What it says is that the people involved in the race long ago, and including today, have just worked really hard to make it a race people want to return year after year,” he said.
“We don’t have it easy in Columbus. We don’t have mountains; we don’t have beaches. If we’re going to have people come here in October – and not for a football game – we have to treat them well.”