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Thousands of runners headed to Summit County for Akron Marathon Saturday

The event is back in-person after a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AKRON, Ohio — The Blue line is back. Saturday, thousands of runners will be chasing it in the Akron Marathon.

“We’re all ecstatic to be back. To be at the expo. To have a live race tomorrow,” said Andy Shepperd, who’s running in the team relay. Shepperd’s nonprofit Project Outrun will operate a hydration station near Mile 20. “It will be bumping on the blue line, for sure!”

“I wore my original, inaugural 2003 Akron shirt,” said Jim Ballard. That was his first marathon. “I wore it because we’re starting again. This is the beginning again, and that’s just how I felt when I came downtown today.”

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Ballard’s been back every year since, and after last year’s virtual event, he feels like Akron’s running community is now reuniting. “It’s like a family coming back to together.”

“They have always been mindful. They make every runner feel like you’re in the Olympics,” he said. “And they’ve always been great about support and safety.”

This year, all runners in the FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay are required to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative COVID test. Jeannine Marks, one of the founders, tells 3News about 80 percent of runners in previous races in the series have shared vaccination cards.

The marathon is also using 14 start times, instead of the usual 3 or 4, to keep everyone safely spread out. “We’re going to have six thousand runners. There's hundreds of thousands of spectators along the course, we just want to make sure we’re as safe as possible,” said Marks.

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Akron Marathon is also making it easy to show your support from home by live-streaming the race, starting at 6:30 a.m. on the Akron Marathon Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/runAkron

The races start outside the Akron Art Museum, travel through Akron neighborhoods and Sand Run Metro Park, and finish on refinished Main Street near Lock 3.

“Our runners are so thankful. They’re really excited we’re able to put this on, and they really trust us that we are doing it the best way we know how,” said Marks. “People really want to be a part of things, it’s lonely doing these things by yourself, so it’s really great to be together.”

“Good luck to all the runners and everybody that’s a part of the marathon,” she said.

Want to see the forecast for the race? Check it out in the player below: