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Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge Preview

With our long, hot summer finally behind us, racing season gets underway this Sunday (October 6th) with the first race in the annual Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge series of races. As is traditional, the IBM Uptown Classic 10-K leads off the series.

The Distance Challenge has been around for many years as a way to build interest in core races and have a logical progression of distances, culminating with the Austin Marathon. Over the years, the format for the Distance Challenge as well as the races have changed.

But for the 2013-14 DC, logistics and the races have stabilized. Similar to last year, participants who want to be part of the Austin Magazine Distance Challenge series have two options: the “full track” and “half track.” The full means runners are required to finish the full distance in every race to count as part of the DC standings.

In the “half track” option, runners need to complete the IBM 10-K, Run for the Water 10-Miler and the Decker Half Marathon. In the Rogue Festival, runners can do the 10-K option and the half marathon in the Austin Marathon.

About 600 runners have already signed up to be part of the Challenge and if you haven’t yet but want to part of it, you must register (a $50 fee) by this Friday. But, if you’re planning to run IBM and do so, you have until October 25th to register. The registration fee is completely separate from the fees for each individual race. Nor does paying fee guarantee you entry in any of the races (3M and the Austin Half often sell out).

With the $50 fee, entrants in the DC get a long sleeve shirt, one-year membership in the sponsoring Austin Runners Club and use of an ARC tent at the finish of each of the DC races. Additionally, all who complete the series (and are registered), get a jacket and a finishers certificate. There will also be awards in all age groups for the full and half track.

To enter the series, go to www.austinrunners.org to register for the Distance Challenge.

As for the DC itself, little has changed from last year’s. All the races remain the same as do the courses. The only noteworthy alterations are two date changes: The 3M Half Marathon has moved its date a week back to January 19th and the Rogue Distance Festival has moved its date up from late January to January 5th .

Here’s a quick overview:

O IBM Uptown Classic 10-K (October 6): Just when it seemed that the Uptown Classic seemed to have settled on its current location at the Domain in north Austin, comes the news that this will be the final year at that venue. This year’s race remains unchanged, but the site for the ’14 race is unsettled. Even though the Uptown Classic has the flattest course in the series, there are a few rolling hills. Still, it’s a PR course. Plus, there is a great post-race expo with plenty of exhibitors and good food. Luke’s Locker, which sponsors the race, now manages the race, rather than IBM and will continue to do so in the future. The 10-K should remain on the schedule next year, but the IBM name won’t. Go to www.uptownclassic.com.

O Run for the Water 10-Miler (October 27): Now in its seventh year, the Run for the Water is one of only two 10-milers in town and has the most scenic course in the DC with gorgeous views of Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake. The 10-mile loop course starts and finishes on the South 1st Bridge and even though it has plenty of ups and downs, it’s a fair course and if the weather is good, fairly fast. As the prime fund raiser for the Gazelle Foundation, funds from this race go directly toward building wells and water projects in Burundi, home country of Gazelle head honcho, Gilbert Tuhabonye. Entries are already way ahead of last year so expect a record field that could exceed 4000 (including a 5-K). Go to www.runforthewater.com.

O Decker Challenge Half Marathon (December 8). One of the enduring classics in town, this will be the 35th year of Decker. Although the distances have changed over the years, the venue hasn’t. Every year Decker is held on the monstrous hills surrounding the Travis County Expo Center. Toss in the usual headwinds and inclement weather, Decker certainly lives up to its name as a major Challenge. One addition: A King (and Queen) of the Mountain will be contested on the 10-mile hill. Go to www.austinrunners.org/DeckerChallenge.

O Rogue Distance Festival (January 5). This will be the second edition of the Rogue Festival and this year there will be three distances: 30-K, half marathon and 10-K. Held in Cedar Park, all three races will start and finish at Cedar Park HS (acres of parking) and the course will be one long, mostly flat loop. The new race date is a vast improvement over its late January date which proved difficult as it was situated in between 3M and the Austin Marathon. Go to www.roguedistancefestival.com.

O 3M Half Marathon (January 19). Because of its lightning fast north-to-south course, excellent logistics and fabulous goodie bag, 3M is generally regarded as the best race in the series–and one of the best races in Texas. It’s definitely one of the fastest half marathon courses in the country. The 3M course is reverting back to the ’12 course which means the final two miles won’t be nearly as hilly. But, there’s still that devilishly tricky uphill in the final 600 meters up MLK to the finish in front of Bob Bullock Museum. Still, there are also plenty of sweeping downhills which makes 3M the PR course. The race usually fills in early January and this year will be capped at 8,000. Go to www.solutions.3m.com.

O Austin Marathon and Half Marathon (February 16). The big enchilada in the series, Austin started way back in 1992 and is still one of the premier marathons in Texas. Although there have been different sponsors and a variety of courses, Austin is developing the consistency it’s always wanted. There’s a familiar sponsor: Freescale, which, back as Motorola, was the original presenting sponsor of the race for many years. For the first time in several years, prize money (with bonuses) has been added which should spruce up the fields. The hilly half and full marathon courses remain unchanged with several difficult climbs and some nice downhills. Both races start (at Bob Bullock Museum) and finish (on Congress) in the same spot for ease of logistics. There is a combined cap of 15,000 runners, but the half marathon (11,000) usually closes much earlier than the marathon. Go to www.youraustinmarathon.com.