The fall racing season and the 2013-14 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge gets underway in earnest on Sunday morning at 8 a.m. in north Austin with the traditional first race in the series: The 14th annual IBM Uptown Classic 10-K.

And make no mistake about it: IBM is a classic. Approximately 2500 runners are expected for IBM which is the shortest and flattest race in the Distance Challenge series. IBM is also the fastest.

The event record of 29:03 by Eric Chirchir of Kenya in 2004 is also the city of Austin record and it’s one of the fastest 10-Ks ever run in Texas. In all, seven of the fastest 10 men’s 10-K’s in Austin have been run on the IBM course and five of the top 10 women’s times.

Chirchir, who also won IBM last year in 29:15, won’t be in town and the field for IBM is unclear as several of the top local runners are competing out of town this weekend. Two-time women’s champ Betzy Jimenez will, however, be there to defend her crown.

One IBM tradition that should not be in play this year is the normal warm, humid weather which has often plagued this race. Racing conditions should be ideal—downright chilly—for Sunday morning.

With or without a top field, the race at the front is always competitive at IBM and fast times and PR’s are spread throughout the field on the relatively flat course (there are a few sneaky, rolling hills) which starts and finishes on the IBM campus in north Austin off of MoPac at 11501 Burnet Road, on the east side between Gault Lane and Kramer Lane. Part of the course goes past the high-end stores of The Domain.

Even though there have been a few minor alterations to the course, this is basically the same course which has been used the past seven years. There are quite a few turns on the course, but only a few are sharp enough to slow you down. The race still starts and finishes on the IBM campus.

It will also—in all probability—be the final year this course is used. IBM is also ending its long association with the race and a new course and new race date is being sought. The city would prefer this race move off its traditional date to avoid conflicting with ACL weekend (s). Even though the race isn’t held anywhere near Zilker Park, city services are stretched on ACL weekends (particularly police) and the race will probably move up or back by a couple of weeks to avoid ACL.

Regardless of the future of the race, it is one of the best races in town. Easy to get to and there’s plenty of parking at the IBM campus. But in order to park there, you have to arrive before 7 a.m. because of road closures. If you get there after 7:30, head to the Domain (right off MoPac) and park at the huge lot at Macy’s. The race will start right across the street.

This year, the Austin Parks Foundation will be the race beneficiary. APF is a non profit which builds public and privates partnerships to develop parks, trails and open spaces in Austin.

There will be an accompanying, timed 5-K which will start with the 10-K field.

Packet pickup and registration will begin Friday (10-7) and continue through Saturday (9-6) at Luke’s Locker at 115 Sandra Muraida. Luke’s is just north of Cesar Chavez at Lamar. Luke’s is on the ground floor of the Gables Park Plaza and there is free parking available in its garage. There will be packet pickup and late registration on race morning, beginning at 6 a.m. at the IBM start/finish line.

IBM is the first of six scoring events in the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge which culminates with the Austin Marathon and Half on February 16th .

Following IBM, the next race in the series is October 27th with the Gazelle Foundation Run for the Water 10-Miler. Then, comes the Austin Runners Club Decker Challenge Half Marathon on December 8th . On January 5th, there will be the Rogue Distance Festival (30-K, half marathon and 10-K) in Cedar Park. The 3M Half Marathon will be held on January 19th.