Monday, February 09, 2015

Interview with Medtronic TC 1-Mile Race Director Jeff Decker on the Evolution of the New Course

Medtronic TC 1 Mile race director Jeff Decker answers questions about the new course for the May 15 race.

Down the Backstretch: Can you give us a chronology of how the course change developed?

Jeff Decker: The course change was prompted by the planned Nicollet Mall Renovation Project and the addition of the Metro Transit Green Line to the tracks that crossed our Nicollet Mall course. With trains now running every 3-5 minutes, there was no longer time for race waves to clear between trains.  Since the renovation was on the horizon, we looked for a new permanent course away from Nicollet Mall.

Just to give you an idea of the logistics of the Nicollet Mall course, the typical train schedule, when only the Blue Line ran on the tracks, allowed for about 10-15 minute breaks in between trains. We scheduled our seven race waves between those trains, pairing a member of our race planning committee with a Metro Transit official at the crossing who were in communication with the start line which was 275 meters from the tracks. A train would pass, we’d send a wave. Shortly after the last runners would pass over the tracks, another train would pass. We were able to keep our runners safe and not disrupt train service with only the Blue Line in operation.

Knowing we needed to move away from Nicollet Mall, our race planning committee pulled together a few different concepts and we reviewed our options with our city partners last December.  It was in that meeting where we moved forward with a Hennepin Avenue course.

 DtB: What was the process of deciding on the new course?. 

JD: We had a few different goals in designing a new course.  This event has historically hosted numerous USA 1 Mile Road Championships.  We wanted to keep the course as similar as possible to the Nicollet Mall course, meaning no major turns and relatively flat.  Also, this event has a large Corporate Team Challenge component to it – some 1500 runners.  It was important to us to try to keep it in close proximity to the old course so we could maintain that engagement. 

Nicollet Mall was such an iconic section of Minneapolis. We wanted to maintain that iconic feeling with our new course.  We felt that starting near the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, running past the Basilica, and running through the Minneapolis Theater District allowed us to keep the iconic feeling of the old course.  Of course, there are many other factors that went into it – finding a course that offered some start line staging and also some space for our post finish area, avoiding the light rail, and other considerations.

DtB: Is this just a one year deal or is it more long term.

JD: We consider this to be a long-term solution.

DtB:  Any consultation with athletes

JD: Yes. Our pro athlete recruiting team was involved in the course planning. They reached out for athlete feedback on the course relative to what it would mean to the event record bonus. We were confident we had designed a great course and the feedback we received has been positive.

DtB: I see you don't call it a Course record bonus.  It is an event record bonus as without that distinction the winning times for this year's event would automatically earn whatever bonus was offered.

JD: We will continue to offer the $10,000 record bonuses that have been in force since 2009.  The bonus will be contingent on runner breaking the existing event records of 3:56.1 for men and 4:30.8 for women. The bonus is one of the most lucrative bonuses among road miles and something that’s appreciated by our pro athletes.

DtB: What is the impact on the downtown?  You're going down one of the more well travelled streets in downtown Minneapolis

JD: We take community impact very seriously. One of the main reasons we landed on this course was that this stretch of Hennepin Avenue has been used successfully by other running events and city officials had confidence in the ability of traffic to move through downtown with limited impact.  Between race waves, traffic will be allowed to cross Hennepin, just as it did on Nicollet Mall.  In the lead up to the race, we’ll be in communication with businesses along the route, letting them know what we have planned. For every one of our events, we contact businesses and residents likely to be affected so that they can plan for any disruptions in their routines.

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