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One of the signature stretches of the annual 10Kato race is Glenwood Avenue.

For the first 15 years of the Memorial Day race, which benefits Hospice and VINE Faith in Action, 1½ of the final two miles featured the long-and-winding road, which includes a gradual but tough hill with about 250 feet of elevation change.

Several years ago, runner Scott Stevens told me after a race that the final stretch was so tough that when he came upon Glenwood Cemetery he thought that might be a nice place to lie down instead of finishing.

This year, Glenwood Avenue is still part of the race, but it’s no longer at the end.

Changes to the area where the avenue meets Warren Street forced organizers to change up the 10-kilometer course.

After starting on Dickinson Street near the hospital on Monday, racers hit Glenwood at the bottom of Division Street, less than a mile into the route. By the time they turned south on Pohl Road, they were done with that dreaded stretch — it’s even a bit shorter section than it’s been previously — and had a relatively flat four-mile finish.

“I liked having the hill at the beginning,” Stevens, the No. 3 finisher in the men’s 40-49 age group, said with a laugh. “You didn’t have to red line for the last mile and a half.”

Women’s winner Jill Nolta agreed.

“That was much better,” she said. “Usually you end on an uphill. It was nice to get that out of the way. ... Once you were to the top of Pohl Road, you could keep going and just think, ‘It’s all downhill from here.’”

Not everyone was thrilled with the change, though.

Tom Weigt, a race volunteer, designed the 10Kato’s original course before the first race in 1997 and liked that it would be a challenge for runners of all abilities.

“I always took pride in having the hill at the end,” he said.

Weigt certainly would be up for such a challenge. He has run more than 50 races of at least marathon length, including several 100-mile ultra-marathons.

“It would always feel good when someone complained about the hill,” he said with a smile. “I’d just say, ‘Yep, yep.’”

Weigt accepts that change happens, and he was more thrilled to see how the race’s field has grown over the last 16 years than be disappointed by how its route has changed.

He said about 60 or 70 people competed in the first 10Kato. This year, nearly 500 people registered for the event, and, officially, 450 people finished the 10K race and the 2-mile run/walk.

Shane Frederick is a Free Press staff writer. Read his blog at mankatofreepresshockey.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter @puckato.

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