One of the biggest attractions to runners for the fifth Starved Rock Country Marathon this Saturday is the "breathtaking scenery" along the 26.2-mile course, which winds through Starved Rock State Park and alongside the Illinois River.
Event Director Matt Skelly said more than 1,000 athletes — about 250 more than in 2017 — have registered to run in the three races scheduled this weekend. More people are expected to cheer and support runners along the routes.
"At this point, we have registered runners coming from 26 states," Skelly said. "Besides the main event — the marathon — we also will feature a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and a 5K race that are attracting runners. Full marathon participants will begin at Washington Park on the corner of La Salle Street and West Jackson Street with a starting time of 7 a.m."
Skelly said the half-marathon will begin at 7:30 a.m. from Starved Rock State Park and wind down Dee Bennett Road back to Ottawa. Participants in that event will meet near the Ottawa American Legion, 901 La Salle St. Runners will be shuttled from behind the Legion Hall to the starting line at the park. Shuttle times run from 5:30 to 6:45 a.m.
Both the full and half-marathons finish at Albin Stevens Drive near the Ottawa River Rescue Station.
The 5K race, open to ages 10 years and older, begins at 7:10 a.m. Saturday from Washington Square. Entry fees for that race are nonrefundable and nontransferable, with registration available early Saturday before the run starts.
Skelly said the public is welcome to stand along the routes to watch the event.
"We invite and urge spectators to come out that day to encourage and cheer on the runners," he said.
However, spectators should note only registered participants can be on the courses during all races. Spectators are asked to remain on the sidewalk or road shoulders.
Organizers warn onlookers not to cut across the courses at any time.
Ottawa Police Capt. Dave Gualandri said his department's primary concern is the safety of the runners, spectators and motorists during the event.
"As in previous years, the races will be an inconvenience to our local citizens, and we remind residents to have an awareness and understanding of potential traffic interruptions that day," Gualandri said.
He said most of the Ottawa police force, telecommunicators and citizen volunteers will be on the streets that day, stationed at the dozens of intersections that will be temporarily affected. Some city streets will have limited access that morning and will be blocked by traffic barricades.
"Street closures in the city, including the South Side, will begin at dawn Saturday, and we want the public to be aware of that," said Gualandri. "As in past years, we are doing everything we can to assure all three races go smoothly and without incident."
Race officials have organized hundreds of local volunteers to assist in the races.
"This marathon, after years of existence, has become a unique and important community event that our citizens can be proud of," Skelly said. "If the weather cooperates, these races promise to be, yet again, a wonderful showcase for Ottawa to impress visitors from out of town."
More information, as well as race rules and regulations, can be found online at runsrc.com/race-information.