This Sunday will mark the seventh running of the Run for the Water 10-Miler–one of the crown jewels of the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. A record field of 4500 is expected for this year’s race (evenly divided between the 10-miler and accompanying 5-K) which promises to be the most prestigious and competitive in the race’s history.

The second race in the 2013-14 Distance Challenge series, the Run for the Water has one of the best, most scenic courses in Austin. For the second consecutive year, the beautiful out-and-back / loop course, which starts and finishes downtown on the South 1st Street Bridge, will be used. Last year for the first time, the middle miles of the course (from 2 ½ to 7 ½ ) was reversed and it received such high praise, it will be utilized again. The Run for the Water 10-mile course isn’t an easy one as it certainly has its fair share of hills, but none of the hills are insurmountable or particularly long. You can view their course video and map.

Starting on the South 1st Street Bridge, the course heads west on Cesar Chavez and Lake Austin Boulevard. Around the Hula Hut along Lake Austin (approximately the 3-mile mark), the course makes the climb up the very familiar Scenic Loop to about the 5-mile mark. This 2-mile climb is the toughest part of the course, but once the top of Scenic has been reached, the fun begins.

The course heads downhill on Pecos for 1 ½ miles to Enfield with the seventh mile marker right at the corner of Enfield and Exposition. After a short climb on Expo comes a sweet downhill back toward the lake and then heads back on Lake Austin and Cesar Chavez for the final two miles back to the finish on the 1st Street Bridge.

Weather looks ideal for Sunday morning. The forecast is for temps in the mid-50s at the race start with overcast skies.

The 10-Miler will begin at 7 a.m while the 5-K gets underway 15 minutes later. A Kids K will begin after that.

Keller Williams Realty is once again the active title sponsor which allows the Gazelle Foundation as the race beneficiary to donate 100 percent of all race proceeds to water system projects in Burundi—the home country of Gilbert Tuhabonye and his cousin Bernard Manirakiza. Due to the success of this race and its fund raising, the water projects have had a profound impact on 22,000 Burundians who now have access to clean and safe drinking water.

“Keller Williams Realty’s involvement demonstrates their commitment to helping others,” said Peter Rauch, Gazelle Foundation president. “This is our sixth race with Keller Williams as sponsor and even beyond their financial support, we have multiple Keller Williams Realty volunteers and race participants.”

Packet pick up and registration for the Run for the Water 10-Miler begins Friday (10-6:30) and continues on Saturday at the two Texas Running Company stores. The downtown location is at 5th and Lamar (1011 W. 5th) and the north location is in the Gateway Shopping Center in the old RunTex location across from REI (9607 Research Blvd). There is race day packet pick up (but only for out-of-towners), beginning at 5:30 a.m. at the race start/finish area on South 1st.

There will be plenty of free parking available downtown as well as at several nearby paid parking garages such as One Texas Center and Long Center/Palmer Auditorium.

The race at the front is expected to be especially competitive this year. Defending champions David Fuentes and Betzy Jimenez are returning and Fuentes (who ran 50:22 last year) will get a stiff test from IBM champ Erik Stanley as well as some of Stanley’s Rogue teammates. Also expected to make his first major road race debut is former UT stud Rory Tunningley who ran 14:28 for 5-K last weekend.

Jimenez, who has won the Run for the Water the past two years (last year she ran 58:48), also won IBM three weeks ago for the third year in a row. Also expected to compete is Jennifer Harney who was runner-up to Jimenez at IBM.

The elite runners will be competing for $1500 in prize money with $250 going to the top man and woman as well as $100 for the top masters guy and gal.

One of the highlights of the Run for the Water 10 is always the pre-race national anthem (s). In addition to the Star Spangled Banner, Tuhabonye and Manirakiza usually sing the national anthem of Burundi. (Manirakiza says he’s “iffy” this year.)

For more info, go to Run for the Water. And if you aren’t in Austin or aren’t able to run, they have kicked off a new “Global Run” which you can sign up for on the main website and participate wherever you live.