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Roanoke hosting its first large in-person events as Blue Ridge Marathon, Down by Downtown return this weekend

Down by Downtown, Blue Ridge Marathon add safety measures for fun-filled weekend

Saturday is the Blue Ridge Marathon.
Saturday is the Blue Ridge Marathon.

ROANOKE, Va. – Runners rejoice!

Saturday will mark the return of the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. This year, it’s bringing more than just a healthy challenge to downtown Roanoke, it’s also bringing a sense of normalcy.

The marathon has more than 2,700 runners already registered and while some are planning to take the virtual option, the majority of those registered are competing on the downtown course.

To make sure everyone is safe, there are changes and guidelines people have to follow. Below are just a few new safety measures for 2021.

  • No race day registration. You must be registered by Tuesday, April 13 at 8 p.m.
  • Staggered starts: Every 30 seconds, 50 runners will take off
  • Runners will start the race wearing a mask, although they can remove it throughout the course but will have to put it back on when crossing the finish line.

Molly Bullington, Blue Ridge Marathon’s race director said they are still looking for volunteers to make everything run as smoothly as possible.

“Because of COVID restrictions it takes a lot of people to manage the number of people we’re going to be starting at one time and so we do have an extra need for volunteers this year,” said Bullington.

To volunteer, click here.

Usually, spectators gather at Elmwood Park; however, this year, there is a limit on how many people can be at the park. Instead, spectators are invited to social distance along the course to cheer on runners. There’s also an app with a live stream of the finish line.

Maybe running is not your thing.

Freedom First Down By Downtown, a weekend-long music festival, will be going on at the same time.

Starting Thursday, there will be 13 shows at outdoor venues and breweries across the downtown area.

In the past, there were about 14 music venues but this year, there will only half that amount.

Tickets for the concert at Elmwood Park after the Blue Ridge Marathon on Saturday have to be purchased ahead of time because there is pod-style seating that is planned before the show starts.

Julie Boas, the events director for Roanoke Outside Foundation and said that typically, the live music and marathon have had a nearly $1 million economic impact.

While this year’s impact may not be that big, she hopes it will bring back some long-awaited vibrancy and normalcy to the area.

“I think for the businesses downtown this is exactly what they need, they need to get back to normal and there is a way to do it that’s safe,” said Boas.

For the Down by Downtown schedule and list of venues click here.


About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.