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Columbia 5K offers chance to 'discover downtown'

The route for the first annual Discover Downtown Columbia 5K, which is being held on Oct. 19. The event will take runners past 16 downtown Columbia landmarks, including through Merriweather Post Pavilion. It is being put on by the Downtown Columbia Partnership.
The route for the first annual Discover Downtown Columbia 5K, which is being held on Oct. 19. The event will take runners past 16 downtown Columbia landmarks, including through Merriweather Post Pavilion. It is being put on by the Downtown Columbia Partnership. (Provided by the Downtown Columbia Partnership)

It can be hard to keep track of all the changes in downtown Columbia that have resulted from the approval of the Downtown Columbia Plan four years ago.

One way to get reacquainted with Columbia's Town Center is through the first annual Discover Downtown 5K and Festival, which will be held on Oct. 19.

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The event, which includes the 5K, a one-mile Kid's Fun Run and lakefront festival, which will include entertainment, food and children's activities, is sponsored by the Downtown Columbia Partnership, a nonprofit set up by the Downtown Columbia Plan to promote Town Center.

"What a great way to physically connect with the plan," said Greg Fitchitt, president of the partnership, who is also an avid runner and will participate in the 5K. I can't think of a better way to physically show the reality of the plan. If you do this race for the next 10 years, it will literally evolve before your eyes."

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The 5K race will wind through the heart of Columbia, beginning at the Mall in Columbia's new outdoor expansion wing and ending at the lakefront. Throughout the race, participants will run by 16 Columbia landmarks, which include current and future development projects.

Here is a full list of the landmarks listed by the partnership:

  • The outdoor plaza at the Mall, a recently renovated promenade that includes nine restaurants
  • The Metropolitan Columbia, a six-story, 380-unit apartment complex to open in 2014
  • Symphony Woods, a 36-acre park to be developed into cultural arts park by the Inner Arbor Trust
  • The Crescent, woodlands slated to be developed into a true urban center
  • Merriweather Post Pavilion, an iconic outdoor concert venue
  • Toby's Dinner Theatre, a popular theatre and dinner venue in its 32nd season
  • The Lakefront Pathway, a project that will complete a path around Columbia's largest lake
  • The Lakefront, the promenade overlooking the 27-acre Lake Kittamaqundi
  • The People Tree, dedicated in 1967, the statue is Columbia's most-recognized symbol
  • Sushi Sono, a lakefront establishment for 17 years
  • Petit Louis Bistro, the Foreman Wolf French restaurant opened this year
  • Clyde's of Columbia, the recently renovated eatery is a downtown anchor
  • Tomato Palace, a casual Italian eatery on the lakefront
  • The Hug Statue, a memorial to Columbia architect and planner Mort Hoppenfeld
  • Rouse Company Building, the recently renovated, Frank Gehry designed building now houses a Whole Foods and Columbia Association wellness retreat

Barb Nicklas, executive director of the partnership, said the route was designed to "go through the heart of downtown," and that the most logical ending point was the lakefront. She added that it will be the first race to run through Merriweather Post Pavilion.

She said the event fits in well with the partnership's mission, which is to raise awareness and promote downtown.

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"The idea is engaging the community in the conversation," she said. "The partnership is really an umbrella organization to bring all the entities together."

Fitchitt agrees.

"It's a great awareness building event. We live and breath downtown Columbia, but it's an emerging story," he said. "To bring new people in, show them all different parts of downtown, show them what is existing today and talk about what's to come. We want to do that again and again."

Nicklas said the plan is to have the event be a recurring tradition. She said she hopes to add a "Taste of Downtown" event next year at the festival following the race.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at the Mall in Columbia's new expansion, 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, and costs $35 for the 5K and $10 for the Fun Run, which is for children 10 and under. Prizes will be awarded. Registration is open through Oct. 14 at downtowncolumbiamd.com/inaugural-downtown-columbia-5k.

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