File photo of a previous running of the Bluegrass Half Marathon. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
The fourth annual Bluegrass Half Marathon, the music-laden 13.1-mile road race set to the tunes of East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Program, is set to run Sunday morning.
The half marathon is returning with a brand-new race organizer, a brand-new beneficiary, a reconfigured road course and two days of race-related activities lined up for runners of all ages and their supporters.
The race and the festivities that surround it have been organized for the first time this year by the Mountain States Foundation, which has designated Niswonger Children’s Hospital as the recipient of all its proceeds.
Pre-race activities will begin Saturday afternoon with a Runners Expo, with final registration and race packet pickup to be held from 1-6 at Millennium Center located adjacent to the ETSU campus on State of Franklin Road.
Family oriented festivities will be centered just across the street from the Millennium Center in the ETSU mini dome, where the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Family Fun Day will be focused on entertaining and easy ways to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into the everyday life of kids.
Fun Day Activities will include a scavenger hunt with a Sony PlayStation 3 grand prize, a jump rope clinic, gymnastics demonstrations, professional fitness instruction, free body mass index screenings, face painting, giant inflatable attractions and more — all geared for children and all for free.
The day will begin with the 1.1 mile Niswonger Children’s Hospital Kids’ Run, Walk and Roll to start at 9:30 a.m. at University School and end at the mini dome. Race day registration for the kids’ run will be held near the starting line. The entry fee is $5. Race T-shirts, running bibs and participation medals will be available while supplies last.
A benefit spaghetti dinner will be held from 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the Millennium Center with Olympic runner Julie Culley, the 2011 US 5K Road Race champion, as the guest speaker. The dinner will feature a variety of pasta sauces and toppings prepared by Millennium Centre Master Chef Jean-Claude Seruga, along with salad, dessert and drinks. The cost is $25.
Sunday’s activities will begin at 7 a.m. with pre-race devotionals in the Millennium Centre Courtyard.
The race, which is expected to attract more than 1,000 runners, will start at 7:30. Students from ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program will be performing at viewing points along the road course through the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus to the children’s hospital, along State of Franklin and across the ETSU campus, through the neighboring Tree Streets neighborhood, down State of Franklin Road to Legion Street, along Legion and University Parkway, then back through the ETSU campus to the Millennium Center.
In addition to the half-marathon runners, community, family and corporate relay teams will be running a competitive guitar strap relay to be conducted in 3.5- 6.5- and 9.5-mile legs over the half-marathon course.
The top individual finishers and the winning relay teams will be recognized in an awards ceremony to begin at 10 a.m. in the Millennium Centre Courtyard. The ceremony will be held in conjunction with a post-race celebration featuring live music, refreshments and road racing vendor booths. The half marathon entry fee is $60, and registration must be completed during Saturday’s expo. No race day registration will be available Sunday.