Chris Thater Memorial Races kick off

By Josh Martin

August 23, 2014 Updated Aug 23, 2014 at 6:13 PM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The 31st annual Chris Thater Memorial Races kicked off in downtown Binghamton. This year, it's a new venue for the event with a lot of past history.

The races have not been held in the downtown district since the very beginnings.

“It is loud, the races are really flying on this course and it’s a lot of fun," said President of the New York State Bicycle Racing Association Jeff Poulin.

The goal of moving the races back downtown is to help increase awareness about the dangers of impaired driving amongst the younger demographics.

Event organizers said the downtown atmosphere has helped increase the number of spectators at the races, which is leading to more intense competition.

“The crowd is the best motivation is the world, when you're coming down the finishing straight there’s nothing else like the people yelling, almost overwhelming,” said nationally ranked cyclist Jonah Mead VanCort. "Every year that I have done Thater, I feel that the course has gotten a little bit better and they’ve outdone themselves having it right here in the middle of town.”

The cycling competitions consist of public, amateur and professional events, ranging from junior level to over age 50.

The races are held in memory of Chistopher Thater, who was killed by a drunk driver.

Saturday night's events include a 5K run, as well as a men's and women's professional cycling races.

The events are expected to attract more than 1,200 athletes and 5,000 spectators to Binghamton's downtown business district.

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