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The long-awaited return of the St. Jude Rock 'N' Roll Nashville Marathon and Half-Marathon is over. The 21st running of the race will finally take place downtown Saturday.
"Our time off seemed to take forever, but since we decided to have this year's race in the fall it's been full steam ahead," race director Erika Larsen said. "And it's been so different the last few years. In 2019 we had the NFL Draft on the same day and that changed everything, and then in 2020 we had COVID and that changed everything."
Officials are trying to make things as close to normal as possible for Saturday's race, which originally was scheduled for April 25 then moved to Nov. 6 before moving to its present date because of a conflict at Nissan Stadium. The start time is 7:20 a.m.
Race postponed: 2021 Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon postponed due to COVID-19
A look at the courses: Here are the race courses runners will face in the Nashville Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
Even with the schedule-shuffling, Larsen said runners are ready.
"If the weather cooperates this is an ideal time to run, not to mention all the foliage we have here; it's going to be a really beautiful day," Larsen said. "Compared to April it's definitely going to be cooler, which the runners like."
A key differences because of the COVID-19 protocols that are still in place will be a much smaller field of competitors for each race, Larsen said.
Instead of a total of 30,000 runners like in recent years, the number will be capped at 15,000. That means the number of spectators will be significantly smaller as well.
Runners will be able to social distance during the race, with officials releasing about 10 at a time every three seconds from the corrals that will be spread apart at the starting line on 8th Avenue and Broadway. Individual computer chip times will determine the winners and not necessarily the first to cross the finish line.
"That will ultimately decrease the density of runners throughout the course at the water stations and the finish line rather than having large packs of people at one area at any given time," Larsen said.
Additional sanitizer stations will be in place and water stations will be self-reliant. For runners who do not wish to take cups handed to them from volunteers (who will be wearing gloves), cups will be placed on a separate table.
A mask mandate will be in place for anyone visiting the indoor facilities at Nissan Stadium, which includes several of the postrace meals and parties.
A change was made in the marathon course. The segment of the race which went through Metro Centerk was removed and replaced by run on the Shelby Bottoms Greenway along the Cumberland River. The half-marathon course is the same as before.
A new 6.15-mile race has been added to go with the 5K, 1-mile, marathon and half-marathon.
The event is teaming with country music artist Ryan Kinder's Kinder Kids to host a toy drive at the marathon's Fitness Expo Thursday at Nissan Stadium.
Participants can donate toys in time for Christmas to those in need. Many of this year’s contributions will go to the children and families impacted by the floods in Waverly in August.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville marathon returns: Here's everything you need to know