Combos Marathon starts in wrong direction

More than 700 runners started and finished the race. Many were led the wrong way to start.
Published: Mar. 4, 2023 at 7:48 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Albany held its 17th annual marathon Saturday morning. This year, they had a new namesake. Instead of Snickers, Mars switched to Combos, a snack that has been manufactured only in Albany since 1968.

Every year the marathon brings runners from around the world, looking to qualify for races like the Boston Marathon.

This year, the race attracted more than 700 participants, which is a 20% drop from around 900 participants last year. The money made by the race also fell with the economic impact being $566,958 as compared to $646,068 last year.

Some racers didn’t get started on the right foot. Runners turned right at the beginning of the race. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

A cop, who was guiding racers, accidentally took the race’s old route. The new race directions clearly stated to turn left on Oglethorpe.

Jarrett Leblanc, looking for a fast time was at the front of the race.

“I studied the race. Every night I’m always looking at directions. I could’ve sworn I studied the start to take a left and once I saw the cop go right I kind of followed suit,” Leblanc said.

The detour added up to a mile for some runners, including Leblanc, who ended up winning the marathon. Nobody wanted to publicly out the race director or course personnel, but many were upset. One runner tells WALB he thinks he would’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon had he not been led the wrong way.

Race Director Rashelle Minix says she empathizes with runners like him and said it was a miscommunication.

“We know that people are upset and we are deeply sorry about that. Those are not things we look forward to. We know people have great goals and we want to help them exceed those goals,” Minix said.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing she can do to make up for the time that runners were off course. She said the race is still special so people will come back. Especially since not all runners took the wrong route.

“There’s always that fear [that runners won’t come back], but the one thing about a race is it is very flat, it’s a Boston qualifier, it’s been one of the top 10 Boston qualifiers for numerous years,” Minix said.

She adds that the race pacers ended up getting back on track quickly and they all finished where they were supposed to. Many people were slightly irked, but they say there was nothing they could do.

“These races. They are really a microcosm of life. You have to have the right attitude. You have to get past the adversity. That’s what we do out here. You have a beer afterwards and life’s great,” Tristan LaNasa, a runner from the Florida Panhandle, said.

Leblanc shares his mentality.

“Turn around and just get back to the front. I managed to get back on course pretty quick. A little 4 1/2 minutes delay,” Leblanc said.

Otherwise, runners and their families could be seen having a good time. People came from all over to compete today, and many plan to come back. WALB caught up with runners as far as Missouri, Chicago, and even Kenya.

“We’re on a mission to do 50 states. This is state number 19. I love the community. It’s beautiful and I had a great time,” John Fodge, a runner from Dallas, said.

Atum Eady and Isis Nelson are siblings. They might’ve run their first half marathon, but they aren’t strangers to the sports world. Atum boxes professionally. Isis runs track, so she prefers shorter distances.

“Just to show myself that I can get out here and run with some of these folks that I’ve been doing it for a while,” Eady said.

Eady helped her sister, Nelson cross the finish line. Those looking to train will soon have another option in Albany.

Shane Smith is bringing back the Good Life City Runners this month. They are a running club that has been dormant since the pandemic.

“We are trying to promote healthy lifestyles through running. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or if you walk the whole thing. All you have to put his 1 foot in front of the other and you’re doing the right thing,” Smith said.

Smith said there will be a training plan for the race next year. The next thing to look forward to are their weekly runs at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays starting back up on March 14th.

To find out more info visit their Facebook page or visit their website.