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The downtown Commons will take center stage for the kickoff of Mill Race Marathon activities starting Thursday when a free health expo opens for runners, visitors and the community.
Organizers are planning for a flurry of activity since the Health and Fitness Expo, sponsored by Columbus Regional Health, also includes packet pickup and last-minute signup for runners and walkers.
As of Tuesday, the total number registered for Saturday’s marathon, half-marathon and 5-kilometer had topped 4,100 for the first-year event. Another 700 children have signed up so far for the Friday evening Kids Fun Run at Mill Race Park.
Laura Chasse, a member of the marathon organizing committee, said there are no plans to cap the races, even the half-marathon, which has drawn the largest pool of participants of around 2,300.
Expo organizers have planned events for people of all ages to learn about health and fitness, listen to motivational speakers, buy health-related items and marathon souvenirs, and visit more than 20 vendor and information booths.
They can learn about their running gait, have a running-shoe fitting or learn about sports nutrition, for example. They can also check out products such as bicycles and helmets.
The two-day expo will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, covering two floors of The Commons.
“We are recommending Columbus residents come out Thursday because parking could become an issue Friday with all the activities going on and out-of-town visitors coming in,” said Christina McCord, an expo organizer.
Special giveaways are planned Thursday by some of the vendors to encourage local residents to visit on the first day.
Another reason Friday will be extra busy downtown is it marks the beginning of the weekend’s downtown entertainment.
From 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Fourth Street — between Jackson and Franklin streets, excluding the Washington Street intersection — will be closed for a zip line, live band and restaurants offering “Carb Day” specials.
McCord said the expo also will be jam-packed with things to do and see.
A special entry is being planned near the “Chaos” sculpture that will set the tone for this event hosted by a city known for its architecture, she said.
Immediately to the right after entering, participants can stop to take a photo of their friends or family members near a large photo wall depicting the Robert N. Stewart Bridge.
A hands-on activity area for children and adults, called “Bring Back Recess,” also on the first floor, will have jump ropes, a four-square activity and hula hoops. Zumba dance-fitness classes will take place on the sidewalk outside The Commons.
Most of the vendor booths will be on the second floor, including ones selling fitness gear and providing health information.
Speakers will cover a range of topics, including cross training, triathlons, yoga for runners and jogging with your dog. Sessions — which will be in the Xenia Miller Conference Room, upstairs — also will help runners learn more about the course.
One of the speakers, Cummins employee Dave Venable, has written “Boston Bound,” a book about his experience training for and running in the Boston Marathon, which he has completed seven times.
Viewpoint Books of Columbus will have a table set up to sell books related to running and other health and fitness topics, including ones addressed by the speakers.
Handouts will be available for those who missed speakers but would like to gather some of the information presented.
The expo also will have tables staffed by the Columbus Area Visitors Center to provide any added information about the race, the city or just some good places to dine or take a few good photos of the city’s most notable architecture.
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