CINCINNATI - Reaction was strong when organizers said the Torrence Parkway hill would be eliminated from the Mercy Health Heart Mini-Marathon & Walk course this year. Facebook comments were pro and con.
Some loved it.
"Like like like times one billion!" wrote Terri Calla .
Some lamented it.
"I'm actually bummed about it," Em Lei responded.
Aaron Motley, one of the team members behind the course design, chuckled when he read responses about "the hill."
"I've never heard anyone say ‘we enjoyed it' before we eliminated (the hill)," he said.
The change was ultimately made for one reason: explosive popularity of the event over its 36-year history led to course changes to accommodate the growing number of runners.
Participation the multi-race fundraiser for the AHA has grown 35 percent since Since 2010. The half-marathon, 13.1 miles, was added to the 15K and 5K runs in in 2011.
"Our start and finish line had become too congested," Motley said. "They were having to slow down before they crossed the finish line for the 5K."
So, instead of being a single start and finish, as it was in years past, the course starts on Sixth Street and ends on Fifth, with the mini and half marathon runners taking the same Sixth Street exit ramp from Columbia Parkway on the run back.
That change meant the end of Torrence.
Motley also pointed out that the elimination of Torrence marks one of the few changes to the course over its 36-year history, with the first change perhaps being the most dramatic.
In 1978, about 3,000 people signed up for the inaugural Heart Mini. The route started at Fountain Square and ran to Central Parkway and then to what is now Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and back.
There was so much congestion because of the unexpected turnout, people had to walk to the finish line. The route also created other logistical problems.
"The Westside couldn't get to the hospitals," Motley said.
That problem led to the birth of the popular Columbia Parkway route, which has seen minor tweaks through the years, mostly due to construction.
"I assure runners, we haven't flattened any of the hills on Columbia Parkway," Motley joked.
This year's route will also allow for meeting spots. The finishing areas in Government Square last year will now be home to tents for race sponsors and meeting areas for families.
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