Runners test endurance in Louisiana Marathon

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Thousands of runners from across the country will flood the Baton Rouge streets Sunday for the second annual Louisiana Marathon and half marathon.

As of Friday night a total of 4,500 registered runners — roughly a 60 percent increase from the inaugural race last year — were signed up for one of the weekend’s four races. More than 3,400 were registered for the marathon and the half marathon.

The registered runners represented 47 states and 12 countries this year.

“I guess we’re still holding hope that Hawaii, Wyoming and Utah might show up tomorrow,” race director Craig Sweeney joked during a Friday news conference.

The marathon and half marathon routes were slightly altered this year because of construction on LSU’s campus. The course is still certified as a Boston Marathon qualifier.

Though the runners won’t get to run in front of Tiger Stadium, course director Patrick Fellows is confident the route will show off Baton Rouge’s better side while still giving newcomers a glimpse of the campus.

“We’re still going to go through LSU,” Fellows said. “What that opened up for us is the opportunity to run through a couple of the neighborhoods.”

“We look at it as a great way to really showcase the city.”

Runners will start at 7 a.m. from the steps of the Capitol building and head south along River Road. After winding around LSU’s campus and the lakes, the half marathoners will head back toward the capitol while the marathoners will split to the east through some historic neighborhoods.

Each route finishes near Capitol Park with the Capitol building in the backdrop of the finish line.

Both of last year’s marathon champions are running again in 2013, but only one will have a shot to defend their title.

Baton Rouge resident Matt Manning, whose time of 2 hours, 33 minutes, 42 seconds won the race by more than 10 minutes last year, will run the half marathon after missing most of his training during a bout with tendonitis. Manning resumed training less than a month ago.

“It’s killing me not to run the marathon,” Manning said. “I’ve been looking forward to it since last year. I’ve had expectations of going out and running some great time.”

Detroit resident Karen Meraw is returning to defend her women’s title after running a 2:58:54 last year.

Jonathan Granger (1:17:42) and Kelly Nicholas (1:29:52) were the top male and female finishers in the half marathon last year.

Live bands will be playing at the finish festival near the race’s finish line. Double Date with Joelle Savoy and Lindsay Young is set to play from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m., and Hot 8 Brass Band is set to play from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.

The finish festival will also include Louisiana cuisine from a number of local restaraunts.

Race organizers said they had around 800 volunteers set to help at the finish festival and work aid stations along the course.

The race estimates to make a $2.7 million economic impact on the Baton Rouge area. But John Price, assistant chief administrative officer for the city of Baton Rouge, said the race had more than just an economic effect.

Price emphasized the city’s role in the race with the state’s name on it, while saying he’s looking forward to the continued relationship with the event.

“It is called the Louisiana Marathon,” he said. “But make no mistake about it, it has the indelible stamp of Baton Rouge on it.”