Marathon runners from around the world head to Albany this weekend

Two runners cross the finish line at the 2023 Combos Marathon & Half Marathon. The 2024 edition of the 18th annual race through Albany is set for March 2. (Photo Courtesy of Alan Mauldin)

Credit: Alan Mauldin

Credit: Alan Mauldin

Two runners cross the finish line at the 2023 Combos Marathon & Half Marathon. The 2024 edition of the 18th annual race through Albany is set for March 2. (Photo Courtesy of Alan Mauldin)

The 26.2-mile race that starts and concludes in downtown Albany, Georgia is set to bring more than 700 runners to the city.

The March 2 race will be the 18th running for Albany Marathon Inc. and the second branded as the Combos Marathon & Half Marathon. The race was given a fresh identity after formerly having SNICKERS as the chief sponsor.

“On race day, we have about 1,200 volunteers that are involved to help make it happen,” Race Director Rashelle Minix, executive director of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.

When the starting gun is fired at 7 a.m., those volunteers will help with everything from manning water stations to the hospitality tent to serving as road marshals along the route and are pulled from school clubs, church groups, and family and friends of race officials.

A little more than two weeks ahead of the marathon, it looked as if roughly the same number would be running as there were the previous year, when 748 took part. When she spoke to an Albany Herald employee this week, Minix said she realized that the event was almost at hand.

“I was just thinking on the way back from the store: This is when it becomes super real,” she said. “We’re pretty close to 800, based on the way that we’re trending right now.”

Albany is a destination that draws runners from around the country and around the world “‘cause it’s flat and it’s fast and it’s fun,” the director said. “Plus, we’re a Top 10 qualifier for the Boston Marathon.”

Last week, the sign-up list included runners from 27 states plus at least three international participants, including runners from Brazil, Kenya and the Netherlands.

For runners in nearby states the location is a convenient drive, and for those coming from farther afield, “They can fly straight into the airport if they want to,” Minix said. “It’s just convenient.”

During their stay, participants and their guests will be staying in Albany hotels and making purchases at area restaurants and businesses.

Minix said that the race has an annual economic impact of about $600,000 for the community.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to showcase our city and be able to pump some money into the economy that we typically wouldn’t have if we didn’t put on this event,” she said.

While it may be surprising for some people that racers from everywhere from Hawaii to Africa to Europe know about a marathon based in southwest Georgia, with some showing up year after year, it’s not that far-fetched.

“We do a lot of digital advertising,” Minix said. “We hit up running groups. There’s a group called the 50 States Club, and they have to run a marathon in each state. There’s the Running Maniacs.”

While the marathon may create some inconveniences for drivers, plans don’t call for closing any streets. Some partial lane closures on city streets can be expected, however.

“It may just be some minor delays, but we don’t close down roads,” Minix said.

And for runners who get confused about the route, there will be volunteers out to help.

“We’re just always looking for volunteers up to the last minute for our road marshals,” she said.

In addition to the immediate boost from the money spent in the community, the marathon has a lasting benefit, said Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes.

“It creates awareness for the community,” she said. “People will be able to experience the quality of life, the natural resources.”

Credit: Albany Herald

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Credit: Albany Herald


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