The second annual Louisiana Marathon weekend is already off and running.
More than 4,000 racers from across the country started filing into downtown Baton Rouge on Friday to pick up their essential race gear from the expo, and a number of them will hit the pavement Saturday for the Advocate Cypress 5k and Kids Marathon.
The starting gun will sound at 8 a.m. for the Advocate Cypress 5k, officially kicking off the weekend.
On Sunday, the full and half marathons will be run.
Sunday’s full Louisiana Marathon will serve as a qualifier race for the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Officials will be handing out prizes valued at $60,000 to the top overall winners of the races.
So far, there were 1,200 runners signed up for the full marathon, 2,100 runners for the half marathon, 650 for the 5K race and 300 youngsters signed up for the kids marathon, Louisiana Marathon marketing director and co-founder Danny Bourgeois, said.
“We wanted to put on a first-class event that those in Baton Rouge could be proud of,” race director Craig Sweeney said.
The Advocate Cypress 5k will start and finish at the Louisiana State Museum, taking runners on an out-and-back 3.1 mile course through downtown Baton Rouge.
University of Louisiana Lafayette cross country freshman Cole Stafford, then a senior at Catholic High School, won the 5k last year with a time of 16 minutes, 23 seconds. Courtney Stockett of Madison, Miss., ran a 17:14 to finish as the top female runner.
The Advocate Cyprus 5k will be a focus for race organizers as the Louisiana Marathon continues to grow.
The race organizers want the 5k to be just as big a part of the weekend as the marathon and half marathon.
“Next year we want to work hard to bring that in,” said course director Pat Fellows, co-founder of the Louisiana Marathon. “Everybody can run a 5K. … Come enjoy part of this Louisiana Marathon weekend.”
The Advocate Kids Marathon is set to start no earlier than 9:30 a.m. from the same location.
It takes kids on a 1.2 mile out-and-back jaunt through the capital park area, serving as the culmination where kids accumulate the full marathon distance over a month’s time.
Students from Dunham School Jazz Band and Baton Rouge Music Studios will play live music after the Kids Marathon.
Both the marathon and the half marathon will start at 7 a.m. Sunday from the front steps of the state capitol. The finish festival will follow, featuring live local music performances.
The expo will be open again from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Belle of Baton Rouge.
In addition to picking up race packets and T-shirts, runners can stick around to hear running advice from coach Gerard Pearlberg and author Joe Muldowney.
Pearlberg will speak about raising a runner for parents and kids from noon to 1 p.m. and will speak again from 3 to 4 p.m. about how to run tall and run easy.
Muldowney will talk about his book, “Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Both will speak in the Belle of Baton Rouge.
There will also be two separate pasta dinners for runners looking to load up on carbohydrates before the big race.
The first will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and will include a keynote address from Beth Ann Telford, who finished an Ironman race after a bout with cancer.
The second will be held from 7 to 8 p.m., and will include a keynote address from Hector Picard, a double-arm amputee who has also completed an Ironman race.
Tickets for the pasta dinners are $8 for kids and $20 for adults. Residents looking to volunteer at aid stations or the finish festival for Saturday’s or Sunday??s races can register at the Louisiana Marathon website.
Even though there will be no road closures or restrictions for residents who live along the course of the marathon, Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Tommy Stubbs said motorists and residents need to be patient Sunday. He said officers will stop traffic at intersections to allow runners to get through and reopen the intersections to motorists once the runners have passed.
“Motorists can expect minor delays. Motorists should be mindful and patient and follow the directions of the officers,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs said the Police Department will have 130 officers near the course Sunday.
The course will go through downtown, into the Garden District, City Park and the LSU Lakes before heading into mid-City and then back downtown.
Advocate staff writer Steven Ward contributed to this report.