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Austin Marathon Weekend Kicks Off Tomorrow; New (Old) Start for Half and Marathon

By any measure, this is the best weekend of the year for the Austin running community. The level of excitement is palpable as Marathon Sunday approaches. The Austin Marathon and its much larger half are the most prominent events we have that draw the greatest number of out-of-town runners to our fair—running—city. More than half of the registered runners are from outside of the Austin metro.

The Austin Marathon will have about 4000 runners (slightly down from last year), while the half will sell out at its cap of 12,000. On-line registration has closed, but you can register in person for the marathon, half or the accompanying Paramount 5-K at the Marathon Marketplace, beginning Friday at the Palmer Events Center from 2-7 p.m and 10-6 on Saturday. If you want to switch from the full marathon to the half (or vice versa), you’re out of luck as the window to switch has closed.

The Austin Marathon has gone through several name and sponsor changes and 21 course alterations in its 24-year history, but one aspect of has remained constant: The race has always catered to the thousands of recreational marathoners and first-timers who are primarily focused on completing the 26.2 or 13.1 miles.

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The Austin Marathon is the capstone of the 2014-15 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. It’s the big enchilada—the one race everyone points toward. The combined fields of the marathon and half will approach 16,000 runners who will make the long loop around Austin, starting at 2nd Street and Cesar Chavez, right on Congress Avenue, at 7 a.m. (The Paramount 5-K also starts at 7, but its starting line is at 11th and Congress.)

Without a doubt, Austin’s course is a special one. Beginning and finishing on Congress, the marathon course winds its way through many of the cozy neighborhoods and funky districts that make Austin the unique, friendly city it is.

In the early going, the course goes south over several hilly miles on Congress before turning north on South 1st along the famed Mexican Mile (a major downhill). The course crosses over Lady Bird Lake around 6 ½ miles at City Hall and then proceeds west along Cesar Chavez and before making a major climb up Exposition, Bull Creek and Shoal Creek. Halfway is at Bull Creek and Jackson, just outside Camp Mabry.

Northcross Mall is the most northern point on the course (mile 17). From there, the race continues east for a mile before finally heading back toward downtown at mile 19 and then picks up North Loop (mile 21) and down Red River (mile 23) and Duval (mile 24) through the gorgeous Hyde Park district. The course then goes past DKR (25 miles) before the ascent up a couple of tricky hills on San Jacinto near the Capitol before the climactic finish on Congress Avenue in front of thousands of cheering spectators who await their runners at the finish line.

The course certainly isn’t an easy one as there are plenty of ups and downs, particularly in the first half of the race. More than anything, it’s a marathon that requires tremendous patience (and a strong dose of confidence).

The half marathon and marathon course are identical for the first 10 ½ miles. Along Enfield, the marathoners head north on Exposition, while the half marathon field proceeds east over some monstrous hills along 15th Street back toward the Capitol. The final mile of the half has some ups and downs before briefly heading south on Colorado (on the west side of the Capitol) and onto the finish on Congress.

One of the best aspects to running the Austin Marathon is the exceptional weather. Typically, we have cool temps that are ideal for marathoning. But, the weather forecast for Sunday is for warmish temps, according to KXAN. It will be probably be dry with temperatures in the high 50s at the start, but it should warm up quickly.

A word of caution: Don’t overdress. That is, don’t even think about wearing tights, a jacket or even long sleeves. You’ll be just fine in a singlet and shorts. You might consider wearing a long sleeve shirt or sweatshirt to the starting corral and then toss it once the race begins. Also make sure to bring dry clothes to change into after finishing. You can check post-race clothes at the gear check, beginning at 6 a.m. The gear check tent is on Congress, south of the Capitol, near the race finish.

Because it will be warm and potentially humid, also make certain you drink at many of the aid stations sprinkled around the course. Each aid station will have water as well as lemon lime Gatorade. There’s only a couple of ounces in fluid in each cup so you may need to grab a few cups at each station to stay properly hydrated.

The Austin Marathon is the centerpiece of marathon weekend, but there are plenty of other race weekend activities, including the Marathon Marketplace Expo at the Palmer Events Center (900 Barton Springs Road). Here, all entrants in the half and marathon must pick up their number, race shirt and race packet.

The Marketplace Expo is free and open to the public. There are plenty of cool exhibits, free demonstrations and running clinics, including a session with the Pace Team at noon on Saturday.

Again, the half marathon, marathon and the Paramount 5-K begin at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Texas Running Post will have complete coverage posted on this site about noon on Sunday.