ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Snickers Marathon is in its 10th year and it is well on its way to earning the title of "Best Small Town Marathon" in the United States.
When you search reviews of the race on running sites, Albany's marathon gets 5-stars. And all hands are on deck to make this another great event, showcasing the city, and bringing runners in from across the country. More than 1,700 community volunteers from churches, clubs, businesses and schools are lending a hand.
Runners and their families were arriving in Albany Friday.
"A lot of my friends in Atlanta have done this Marathon before and they recommend if I want to go fast, come down here!" said Jessie Glisson, who is running her third marathon.
Matt Booth with Mizuno says there are two reasons why the race's reputation is growing among avid runners, "The weather is perfect, not too hot and not too cold."
Booth says the route doesn't have many turns and is flat, making it easier for runners to clock a better time, especially those qualifying for big races, like the Boston Marathon.
Gregory Brown traveled to Albany from California for his 234th marathon.
"That's the thing about us being a smaller race and us wanting to be the best small town race in America, is because we can give them that personal attention for each and every one of them," said Race Director Rashelle Beasley.
Domoni Craig, the Catering Manager at the Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Albany, the site of the Snickers Expo and Race Registration says they are rolling out the red carpet for the runners, from an early morning breakfast, a carb-loading dinner, and of course, coffee.
"It's the 10th year of the race and it is getting more and more popular so we expect it to be pretty busy (at the Expo)," said Booth.
Long-time vendors say this dynamic weekend keeps growing.
"We started out 10 years ago with a little less than 500 runners and here we are with 1,500, could be 1,600 runners by race day," said Beasley.
1,600 runners, plus their friends and families, checking out what the Good Life City has to offer.
"(This weekend) has a huge impact. It gives people the opportunity to see our city and our hospitality all at the same time," said Beasley.
Organizers project the marathon will have a more than $600,000 economic impact on Albany. Many hotels are full as runners from more than 40 states and several international locations are here.
The marathon attracts people from so far away because the weather is usually good, and the flat course leads to good times. Many runners came, hoping to run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Organizers hope a great experience will encourage visitors to come back to Albany.
"So it is let them know just how friendly we are, how welcoming we are, then they can bring their family back to visit with us," said Beasley.
The starting gun for the race will be fired at 7 a.m. Saturday.
As the race winds down, other festivities in downtown Albany will begin.
The Mardi Gras Street Festival starts at noon until 8:30 p.m. Saturday with most of the activities around the 100-block of Pine Avenue, near the Flint RiverQuarium.
General Admission to the Street Festival is $5, and there will be live music, vendors, and a Kid Zone for children.
The Band list is as follows (from Facebook):
Noon to 1:00 p.m. Evergreen Family Band
1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Bo Henry Band
3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Trae Pierce and T StoneBand
4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Unbreakable Blood Line
6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Southern Arts Music Ensemble
7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Relapse
For another fun downtown event, the Tift Park Community Market will be open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.