Now that all the major winter races are in our rear view mirror, the spring racing season begins this Sunday with a relatively new but high quality race: The Austin 10/20. It’s a 10-mile race and will be held on Sunday (March 29), starting at 8 at The Domain for the fourth straight year.

More than 6000 runners are expected for the 10/20. It’s one of two 10/20 races (the other is in Del Mar, California, held a month ago), developed by long-time race director Peter Douglass. He moved to Austin from San Diego six years ago, where he was one of the principles of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series of half marathons and marathons. Douglass wanted to take that successful music-theme format and apply it to a race in Austin.

The 10/20 race is a must-do event with all the ingredients of a big-time event — a hefty prize money purse, a national-class field, a flat, fast course and—intrinsic to the Rock ‘n’ Roll success story—music.

Plenty of music. But Douglass took that approach one step further. Rather than just have a band every mile of the course as the Rock ‘n’ Roll races do and leave gaps, Douglass’ idea for Austin was a band every half mile (20 in all) in order to have music practically every step of the way.

It also provided Douglass with a unique name for his race—the 10/20. That is, 10 miles with 20 Austin-area bands and one headliner (Black Pistol Fire) at the finish-line party.

Says Douglass, “With my background of putting on huge races, I just wanted to do something similar for Austin. But I didn’t want to just have a race for the sake of having one. We bring all the elements together to put on a major event. From the beginning stages, I wanted a highly competitive race, but also a race which was going to be a fun, exciting event for the average runner. And I think we’ve accomplished that.”

Attracted in part by lucrative prize money, the field for the 10/20 at The Domain in north Austin is deep and competitive with a glittering array of national-class runners, some who ran in the Texas Relays events on Thursday night. Although Douglas doesn’t pay appearance money or travel expenses, the winners will receive $1000, $800 for second, $600 for third and $400 for fourth. There’s also $5000 for a world 10-mile record bonus and $5000 for an American record. In addition, there’s masters money as well as $3000 reserved exclusively for Travis County residents.

The listed records for 10 miles are in some dispute. The distance is not an official distance (and it is seldom run), but the current world record for a sanctioned 10-mile race is 45:38, set in 1995 by Ismael Kirui. However, some contend the world record is 45:13 by Ian Stewart, set in 1977. Adding to the confusion is Haile Gebreselassie ran 44:24 in 2005. The women’s 10-mile world record is equally muddy. Mary Keitany ran 50:05 en route to a 65:50 half marathon and most consider that the record.

The American 10-mile records currently listed are 46:13 by Greg Meyer in 1983 at the Cherry Blossom Road Race in Washington. The women’s American record is 51:31 by Deena Kastor in 2006 in Berlin. The American masters records are 49:34 by Paul Pilkington in 1998 and 55:36 by Stephanie Herbst-Lucke in 2003.

The 10/20 course is extremely fast—i.e., flat—and it’s a gem. The start/finish will be at The Domain Central Park (right near IBM) on Alterra Parkway right near Esperanza in North Austin. Unlike prior years, the start and finish are at the same spot.

The weather forecast for Sunday is for temps in the low 60s at race time with some cloud cover. There’s no threat of rain, but it will warm up rapidly. A word to the wise: Don’t wear tights.

There’s plenty of parking, but get there early (before 7:30). To access the race site off north MoPac, get off at Braker or Duval and follow the signs. If you’re coming from the north, exit MoPac at Duval.

If you haven’t registered, you can still register at the pre-race expo at the Quarries Recreation Center, near The Domain (11400 N. MoPac) which runs from 11-7 on Friday and 9-5 on Saturday.

As with any of the Rock ‘n’ Roll events that Douglas produced, the post race festivities are key. And 10/20 is no exception. In the finish area, there will plenty of food and the always popular Miller 64 beer garden (one is free). The show by Black Pistol Fire is scheduled to begin at 10:45.

Again, race time is 8 a.m.