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Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon takes mountain of work

6:38 PM, Mar 29, 2012   |    comments
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The countdown is on until the sounds of shoes on pavement fill the streets of downtown Knoxville.

"Most people come out and they run the race and they pay their money and then they head on the course and they come back and they have some food and they go home, and they don't have any idea what happens before or after an event like this," said Kristy Altman, managing director of the Knoxville Track Club, which sponsors the race.

This year's race will kick off Sunday morning with an expected 7,500 runners, a huge increase from last year's 6,500.

"For something like this, it's a year-round process - the breakdown, the cleanup, the things that happen after the event go on for at least a month and a half after race day, and then we start all over for the next year," Altman said. "We go back to securing sponsors and then putting together our media packages and making sure that we're out there and looking for new participants and bringing back old participants and just making it bigger and better each year."

In order to do that, it takes a lot of work and a lot of volunteers. When all is said and done, more than 1,200 people will have donated their time to the effort in a number of ways, from labeling bibs to stuffing goody bags.

But that's not where the work ends.

"It's an absolute team effort, it's one that requires police, fire, public works, engineering, I mean, it's the track club, private businesses, neighborhood organizations, it's a mix of folks, and Knoxville's good about bringing folks together and, I mean, I think the marathon's a lot of work, but it's also a real fun event," said David Brace, Knoxville's deputy director of public service.

Last year, the city had to work quickly to replace a bridge on the route through Tyson Park, and work by the Knoxville Utilities Board wrapped up just before this year's race.

Meanwhile, crews are still working on a paving project on Cherokee Boulevard, also part of the race route, but Brace said the workers will find a good stopping place and make sure the road is safe for runners on race day.

"We go through, almost with a fine-toothed comb, the entire route to make sure the route is safe, we have transition, that potholes are fixed, any surface imperfections are either smoothed out or repaired, and so, our folks do that really do that several months before the marathon and then right before the marathon, like today, tomorrow, Saturday, we're out doing that just constantly to make sure the route is ready," he said.

The race is set to kick off at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, and Altman says, the next few hours after that, make it all worthwhile.

"At the end of the day, it's just so rewarding to stand there on marathon morning and just watch all those people run up Clinch Avenue and then to watch them come across the 50-yard line, and whether you run fast or whether you run slow, you've taken the same journey, the same route, and everyone just has such a great feeling when it's over," Altman said.

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