2024 Electric City 10K

by Josh Merlis

“...will be closed off for construction.”

I could believe it, but still, it felt like a punch in the gut to once again be confronting a need to make a course change, especially with barely a month until the race. Over the past few years, nearly all of our road races have required annual course changes, or, at a minimum, required contingency plans in case repairs weren’t completed in time. And so late one night I found myself staring at Google Earth, trying to figure out the least invasive way to modify the course.

For the 2021 and 2022 editions of the Electric City race, it was 5 miles in length. As 2023 approached, NYSDOT inspected and ultimately closed the Sunnyside Road bridge due to safety issues, requiring us to modify the race, for which we ultimately determined that changing it to a 10K would work best with respect to staying somewhat close to the original course.

A few months before this year’s edition, as we were putting together our 2024 schedule, we decided to expand upon last year’s “23.1 Challenge” and create a trifecta series of races that linked our Electric City 10K (3/2/2024), Helderberg to Hudson 13.1M (4/13), and Miles on the Mohawk 10M (5/26). We gave it a simple name - the 29.3 Challenge - which we did think was pretty unique, if for no other reason than the obvious one: when’s the last time you ever explicitly thought about 29.3 miles? As we opened registration for our races, interest took off for the 29.3 Challenge. Of this year’s ~1,150 registrants for the Electric City 10K, nearly 500 (43% of the registrants) were participating as the first leg of their triple crown.

It seemed serendipitous to us that the number of weeks separating those 3 races (with respect to the distances at each one) made it work quite well for someone to participate in all of them. And with Miles on the Mohawk being modified to a single distance race last year, it also better enabled us (operationally) and the participants to share in a more focused goal for each of the events.

USATF Grand Prix Kick-Off

For the second consecutive year, we were proud to be selected by USATF Adirondack not just as part of their Grand Prix Series, but based upon the race date, as the kick-off event in their annual Grand Prix Series. Anyone can be a member of USATF Adirondack. Ultimately nearly 70 of their members participated, compromising membership from 9 local teams: Adirondack Athletic Club, ARE Racing Team, CREW Racing, Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club, Nark Running Strategies, Saratoga Stryders, Wild Rovers Racing Team, and Willow Street AC. Grand Prix info and results are available here: https://areep.com/usatf/adk/gp/2024/

Race Week

“Please be nice out on Saturday!”, I would powerlessly wish for those final few days. When we had to change the course a few weeks prior, we shifted it to finish adjacent to the casino (thank you Rivers Casino/Landing Hotel for welcoming us!) in their outdoor courtyard, which clearly would make for an awesome staging venue in nice weather but, well, you all know what it’s like being outside in the winter when it’s not “nice” out.

The other reality impacting my general concerns about all this was the event size. In 2023, we had about 450 registered (379 finishers), and when planning began for this year’s edition, we told our municipal/vendor partners that we expected a similar number of people. By January 8, we had eclipsed last year’s numbers, and as that number more than doubled, it added size-related logistical concerns. Some of those concerns started with where do we put everyone? Then because of the size of the event: what the impact would be on parking, start area logistics, bathrooms, post race food/refreshments, finish area/chute length, and a host of other operational demands. These concerns all required modifying our 2023 event deployment plan to accommodate what 2024 would bring us.

With all that said, we (AREEP) were elated! While yes, the increased size did expand event logistics, the bulk of the administrative tasks of race planning are the same regardless of the event size, so when a race is relatively larger than expected or grows a lot, it makes all of that effort feel more rewarding.

Author Note: In the summer of 2004, ARE launched the Summer Trail Run Series. Every Thursday I would mark (generally) a ~3M and a ~6M loop in the Pine Bush preserve, and for that first year, typically 15 to 25 people would show up at 6:30pm to do one of the loops. While I was in between undergrad and grad school with “nothing else to do” on Thursdays, one of those weeks I spent ~2.5 hours marking the courses as rain came in. It was pouring out by the time I finished, about 30 minutes prior to the start. We ended up with 4 people or so showing up; I don’t remember if anyone did the 6M loop that night, but at that point I decided that if someone wants to do 6M, they can do the 3M loop twice.

Setting Up

On Fri, March 1, we arrived at Mohawk Harbor mid-afternoon to begin setup. While we knew that an event was going on at the casino that evening, we didn’t know that one of their vendors would have their truck parked on our finish line, which they planned to keep there until ~2AM when the concert would end and they’d pack up. Thankfully, the security at Rivers Casino assisted us in connecting with them and they moved their truck so that we could set up on the bike path as intended. (For larger race productions, we do a lot of setup in the day or two prior with respect to simply how long it all takes to put in place.)

Larry Galluzzo, Aaron Major, Pete Rowell, Joe DiSanto, and David Newman rejoice at being nearly done with Friday setup.

Race Day

To me, nothing beats the excitement and anticipation of arriving at a race. And on this day, over 1,000 runners, hundreds of spectators, nearly 80 volunteers and staff, and countless municipal partners (police/EMS, etc.), vendors, and sponsors woke up all over the Capital Region and beyond with the same destination: Mohawk Harbor. With most of the infrastructure in place the night prior, we arrived shortly before 7am and got to work with the finishing touches. A few members of our team immediately set out to mark the course (cones, mile marks, directional signage, etc.) while others were stationed at the start line and the rest at the finish/packet pick-up area. Within an hour, participants began to arrive, and while we did have to keep the music low for a while (the event was staged from a hotel and it was understandably requested that we don’t serve as a wake-up alarm for all the guests) there was no denying a crescendoing energy as the start time drew closer.

“Head to the Start Line!”

As the director of the event, my goal was to allow myself to be generally mobile during the event, or to put another way, not get locked into a specific assignment that would prevent me from attending to an absolute, urgent need. (Such needs have historically included a full spectrum of tasks, from “last minute” on-site meetings with the police, medical situations, municipal partners with questions, etc.) Above all else, however, this relative ‘freedom’ also gives me a chance to see the big picture and jump into any task that may need doing, or at least delegate to someone to take on that role that needs completion.

The start was so much fun! Due to the construction, our start staging area was set up like a “U” (instead of simply a straight line) which kept our footprint more compact and allowed for everyone to see more of each other and feed off each other’s energy.

Author Note: For the inaugural year in 2021, winds were horrific the day prior and on race morning. We ended up buying an extra 2,000+ pounds of sandbags the day prior to hold down our barricades (supplementing what we brought with us), which still wasn’t sufficient. And when we arrived on race morning, all of the porto-potties had blown over. Not only were they blown over (with the door side touching the ground), but when we lifted them up and opened the doors, there was a sheet of blue ice that we literally had to break to enter the toilet. Indeed, when they knocked over - thankfully UNUSED! - all the toilet water had spilled out, flattened to cover the entire door, and froze. Needless to say, while the rest of my team went about their race morning prep tasks, my job became getting the toilet company to get there immediately and to fix it, which amazingly they did! An unexpected task like this is what my ‘freedom’ allows me to do!

                                         Internal schematic for our setup team

Let’s gooooo!

At 9:30am, the horn sounded, and off we went! Chris McCloskey, Dan Rutledge, and I began as lead bikes, with Chris and Dan staying about one hundred yards ahead of me, as I remained closer to the runners. Chris and Dan served as ‘scouts’, essentially tasked to be far enough ahead to attend to any quick need (ie. stopping a car exiting onto the course); indeed, while we also had volunteers at every intersection and police at many of them as well, until the race reaches a location, among the most precarious moments is just prior to the race getting there. Thus, the ‘scouts’ are able to triage and prevent any issues from becoming ‘big’ issues.

Dan eventually paused (as planned) at one location to assist there before dropping back into his float role, while Chris continued to lead me leading the runners. In Collins Park, I asked Chris to stop to await the “chase pack” (the first 3 men were extremely ahead of the next person), while I then continued on, with no scouts remaining. I’m always nervous with a solo lead biker with respect to two primary concerns: getting a flat tire and encountering a situation that requires me (or other solo lead biker) to stop biking and prioritize a situation, both of these concerns, would mean no one leading the runners. Originally, I was going to have Chris remain as the lead biker with me still supplementally present, but I called an audible with 2 miles to go as I wanted to ensure coverage for the next group (chase pack) of runners, and also cognizant that even if ultimately I couldn’t be leading in that final stretch, that with our volunteer/police support, along with the ability to ensure our finish team knew when to expect first place, that it would be OK. (Worst case, I’d run back to the finish if my bike was unusable.)

Shortly before 10:02am, I biked across the finish line and hopped into our timing truck to join my timing team in watching Ricardo Estremera break the tape in 32:26. Within 22 seconds, two more had finished and it would then be another 80 seconds until our 4th finisher crossed. Nicole Moslander was the first woman, running 36:49.

One nice perk of the typical “bell curve” of finish line activity is that the low density as the first runners finish gives us some extra time to review results (and generally everything and anything going on at the finish line) before the flood of runners come in.

Only another 30 runners would cross in the first six minutes of finish activity and less than 100 total had finished eleven minutes after Ricardo had won. Indeed, 900 remained on the course as I surveyed the finish area, and also stared at the sky, thankful that it had remained dry since we arrived, hopeful it would stay that way.

Making it Fun: ‘Race’ vs. ‘Event’

The two terms are used somewhat interchangeably, with my personal feeling that “event” can be used to describe a race that has frills. (There are also other contexts when we call any race is an event.) We certainly desire for the Electric City 10K to have a ‘big race’ feel, with many aspects that elevate it from just being “another run” you could go on around your neighborhood. Bibs, live tracking & results, road/lane closures, 8’ tall mile marker signs, volunteers at every intersection, and being in a pack of one thousand people help illustrate that difference from a solo or small group training run. So does the overall atmosphere and the involvement of sponsors who provide products and financial support to enable that experience.

Nark Running & Strength has been sponsoring our races for years, bringing their team to participate, and Mat, himself, also made an awesome video recap that encapsulated what it was like to run the 2024 EC10K.

Bountiful Bread once again provided the food, and Garelick Farms came on board this year (also as a sponsor of our 29.3 Challenge / Upstate Classic) providing infrastructure assistance and chocolate milk. Druthers Brewing Company opened early to provide a warm location and restrooms pre-race, free beer to all the runners and the option to celebrate with a post-race brunch (at an hour they are ordinarily closed).

Rivers Casino & the Landing Hotel not only let us use their courtyard, but also their facility, which included an amazing set of restrooms and general venue providing warmth and overhead coverage.

Galesi Group, owners of Mohawk Harbor, welcomed us to their property, and were truly a phenomenal partner in making everything work regarding the start area staging, which otherwise was serving as a parking area for their construction vehicles along with a lot of equipment that they moved just for us!

The Schenectady Police and Fire/EMS Departments, Glenville PD, Scotia PD, and the Schenectady County Sheriff’s office were also directly involved in making the race happen, working in concert for a smooth race day.

Ultimately, along with the entities listed above, it takes a team of volunteers to pull off. Each person named below played an integral role at the Electric City 10K.


Thank you!

It is a true privilege to get to produce events right here in our beloved Capital Region, and made possible through the selfless efforts of volunteers like those named below, who give their time so that the rest of us can enjoy these great gatherings that challenge us, motivate us, and inspire us.

2024 EC10K Team
Marey Bailey
John Bateman
Mike Becker
Erica Blaize
Laurie Bortscheller
Anthony Bouchard
Matthew Brom
Jordan Buck
Linda Carignan-Everts
Harry Ching
Emily Chromczak
Daniel Clark
Bec Collins
Maureen Cox
Bill Davis
Joe DiSanto
Kim Donegan
Sierra Ellis
Darrell Everts
Paul Forbes
Yahong Ge
Edward Gillen
David Halloran
Joe Hayter
Alison Heaphy
Rich Hoult
John Hurley
Nathan Laing
Ed Litts
Joelle Mann
Vernessa Mason-Mitchell
Addison McCanney
Chris McCloskey
Charity McManaman
Alice Menis
Jordan Mentzel
Michelle Merlis
Sammie Morrissey
Becky Mosher
Virginia Mosher-Sweeney
David Nagengast
Lynne Nagengast
David Newman
Lisa Nixon
William Ottaway
Rebecca Paddock
Jessica Peck
Anna Pratt
Joanne Richardson
Gary Robinson
Pete Rowell
Alanna Rutledge
Dan Rutledge
Tom Ryan
Jessica Senft
Lauren Sindoni
Jean Strong
Emily Taft
Tania Tinley
Emma Tricarico
Anne Tyrrell
Deb Valois
Christine Varley
Roxanne West
Donnelly Whitehead
Richard Whiting

2024 Electric City 10K Results: https://www.zippy-reg.com/results/?ID=1960

2024 Electric City Photos: https://areep.smugmug.com/2024-Electric-City-10K

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