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The planning leading up to the first ever Columbus Downtown Runaround was minimal to say the least.

Rex Davies, John McClure and Ed Wagner approached then Columbus Family YMCA Executive Director Bob Lauterbach about possibly helping to promote and sponsor a community fun run. The trio wanted something that would draw both competitive and recreational athletes out of their homes for a summer morning filled with exercise and camaraderie.

The year was 1986, and the Columbus community was sorely lacking a well-organized running event that would pique public interest.

“There was like one race in Columbus at the time, and it wasn’t very good,” said Lauterbach, one of 11 people on the Columbus Downtown Runaround planning committee. “It wasn’t well-organized, so we sat down and I said, ‘How are we going to do it?’ So we sat down and talked about it.”

Wagner, still ever involved with the planning process, said that the four men met in March and managed to host the first ever Downtown Runaround four months later. The event drew out 286 competitors during its inaugural trial. The rest, as they say, is now history.

This year, the Columbus Downtown Runaround is being held on Saturday, July 20. There will be 5- and 2.1-mile offerings for competitors. Both races will begin in the downtown area at Glurs Tavern, 2301 11th St., at 8 and 8:05 a.m., respectively. Those interested in competing who haven’t already registered can still do so for $30 through July 16 by visiting getmeregistered.com and keyword searching ‘Columbus Downtown Runaround.’

Brochure registration - which is $5 more – can be completed through July 14 leading up to the competition. Brochures can be picked up and dropped off at the Y, 3912 38th St.

An awards ceremony will be held at Glurs Tavern following both races with pizza and beverages being provided to race participants. In addition, Columbus bucks worth $100, $80 and $50 will be provided for first-, second- and third-place men and women finishers in the 5-mile race. The top male and female competitors in the Masters division - 40 and over – will each receive $50 in Columbus Bucks, which are valid and numerous Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce affiliated businesses.

The Downtown Runaround has taken on a life of its own throughout the years. Lauterbach noted that more than a dozen competitors have taken part in every race since its inception. Some even make the trek from out of town and return to Columbus once-yearly to pound their feet on the pavement with their friends and family.

First National Bank is once again serving as the event’s corporate sponsor and about 25 other local businesses are contributing in one way or another to the Downtown Runaround. Proceeds from the event go toward benefiting Columbus’ youth, Lauterbach said.

“Every year – if we make enough money – we give $500 to every high school booster club and college booster club, and we give $1,000 to the Y since they were the starting group that supported us,” he said.

In addition to the adult race, the 27th annual 1-mile Junior Runaround is being held free of charge for children ages 12 and under the day before the Columbus Downtown Runaround at 7:30 p.m. on July 19 at Pawnee Park. There will once again be prizes and refreshments for all finishers in addition to door prize drawings. Shirts will also be available for $8.

“It’s not a competitive run, it’s a fun run,” said planning committee member Carrie Trofholz. “… This is the night before, and we see a lot of the same kids and families come each year. At the end of the race we have a drawing for a grand prize for a new bicycle, and then we have about 100 other door prizes we give away for those participants."

Those wishing to participate can do so up through the day of the race.

“The nice thing about this race is it gets them interested in running, and it also gets them excited about doing the big run in the future,” Trofholz said.

This year’s committee has been hard at work getting ready for both events since April. Other planning committee members are: Jill Krienke, Annette Hash, Lois Thalken, Joy Meister, Janie Thomas, Elaine Zoucha, Dan Keiter and Lynne Trouba.

Lauterbach praised the committee for doing what it takes every year to make the Columbus Downtown Runaround and Junior Runaround an annual success.

“Everybody knows their role, they stay in their lane, they do everything to get ready and it all just works,” he said.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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