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Runners want Batavia to keep downtown marathon route

Updated: February 7, 2013 12:56PM

BATAVIA — If there’s anything as certain as shin splints and runner’s knees for long-distance racers, it is the passion participants of the Peapod Half Madness Marathon have for their race.

“We have racers come from Chicago and as far as Minnesota … (but) there is a marketing (component) we are missing,” race organizer Danny Delgado said.

Runners filled the City Council Chambers this week to make a plea to keep the 13.1 mile route, held in August, on downtown city streets as it has been for the past five years.

City Services Committee members were polled and each said they supported the race continuing on city streets through the downtown, and directed city staff to work with the race organizers to adjust the route to exclude Main Street.

“There is a lot of good in these events,” Alderman Eldon Frydendall said. “If the route passed in front of my house, I would probably take my car out around the corner earlier in the morning. Tthe route) just needs a few adjustments.”

City staff had recommended better utilization of the Fox River Trail for races because of the “considerable expansion” of “high impact” events over the last eight to 10 years that are close to approaching a “saturation point where the cumulative negative effects will outweigh the positives.”

Assistant City Administrator Jason Bajor said the key objective in evaluating such events has been to identify areas where the impact to residents, traffic and city resources can be mitigated and the risk of liability reduced.

“The Fox River Trail is a resource other communities do not have and to not utilize it and address the concerns of residents seems to be a stone unturned,” Bajor said.

Delgado said Batavia’s downtown deserves to be showcased and there are safety concerns when that many runners on a narrow path mix with the general population.

The Rev. Steven Srock, senior pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, said the closure of streets during Sunday mornings is “extremely disruptive to church services.”

“We are strong supporters of community events, we just don’t know why it has to take place on Sundays,” Srock said.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said he was aware of the sentiments of the race’s participants. Schielke said his office and city staff are interested in doing what is best for Batavia and that included hosting events that bring energy and excitement to the city.

“I heard that race volunteers were out telling residents they couldn’t back out of their driveways,” Schielke said of last year’s half marathon.

Schielke said Main Street, from Batavia Avenue to Randall Road, is a major artery to many churches in Batavia and its closing on Sundays for races creates problems for traffic, particularly for churchgoers.

“Again last year, on the days when we had races on Sunday mornings, I received complaints from people who think there is a better way to do this,” Schielke said.

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