Hundreds of runners will descend upon downtown Columbia this weekend for the 46th annual Governor's Cup Road Race, which includes the signature half-marathon and several smaller races Friday and Saturday.
Before you head out, whether it's to run in one of the races or cheer on the participants — or if you prefer to steer clear of the action altogether — here are six things you need to know about the race and its associated events.
The course for the half-marathon has not changed since it was revamped for the 2016 race.
Runners will pass through downtown Columbia's historic district, the Vista, West Columbia, Cayce, Five Points, Shandon and the University of South Carolina, crossing the Congaree River twice via the Gervais Street and Blossom Street bridges. The course will present runners with a variety of elevations, including a 0.3-mile climb up Saluda Avenue near Five Points.
Stationed throughout the 13.1-mile race will be 26 groups that are part of the race's "Spirit Corps," which encourage runners and entertain spectators throughout the race. These groups include cheerleaders, the Dreher High School band and a steel drum ensemble.
The 5K race will stay on the Columbia side of the river, taking runners through the historic downtown area and Arsenal Hill neighborhood, skirting Finlay Park and coming up Gadsen Street before ending on Park Street in the Vista.
New to the 5K and half-marathon this year will be a "Ruck division," according to Rick Noble, community relations coordinator for the Governor's Cup. Participants load up backpacks with rocks and carry the loaded packs for the entire race.
The half-marathon will travel along major thoroughfares in downtown Columbia — like Blossom and Gervais streets — and cross other major roads, like Assembly Street.
Race organizers say no roadways will be closed. But one lane of certain roads might be blocked off for runners, such as the outer eastbound lane of the Gervais Street bridge, which could slow traffic heading across the bridge into Columbia, according to Noble.
A majority of the runners likely will be finished with both races by 9 a.m., Noble said. More than 80 police officers stationed throughout the course will keep the runners safe and keep traffic moving for motorists.
"If people are just patient, there will be police officers at major intersections and monitors in the neighborhoods that might ask you to stop for a minute," Noble said. "This is not really going to inconvenience people at all."
Main Street between Lady and Laurel streets will be closed Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the Main Street Mile races.
A little history
In 1973, S.C. Gov. John C. West asked the president of the Columbia Running and Jogging Club to host a race around the State House for World Wide Running and Jogging Day.
Richard Harris, a longtime distance runner and club member, organized the event that included a 15-mile run, 5-mile run and 2-mile "fitness jog."
The first 15-mile event had 68 male finishers but no women. The 15-mile race continued until 1996, when the half-marathon replaced it as the long run.
Each year, the race selects a charity beneficiary. This year's charity beneficiary is Sistercare, a nonprofit that provides services and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and their children.
Prerace and postrace events
The action kicks off Friday with packet pickup and the race expo from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Hilton Columbia Center on Senate Street.
Packet pickup for the Main Street Mile will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the First Citizens Plaza, 1230 Main St. Packets also can be picked up Saturday from 6 to 6:45 a.m. at the Hilton Columbia Center.
There is no race-day registration for the 5K and half-marathon.
The Main Street Mile events start at 6:30 p.m. Friday with the kids run. The open and elite adult runs will start at 7 and 7:30 p.m., respectively.
After the half-marathon and 5K Saturday, Tin Roof in the Vista will host the post-event celebration. Devils Backbone Brewing Company will offer one free can of beer for Governor's Cup participants who are 21 and older, and the beer will start pouring at 9:15 a.m.
A discounted brunch will be offered starting at 8:30 a.m., and the Nashville-based Blue Pickups Band will perform two sets: 9:15 to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A 'famously hot' race?
Columbia will be warm for the main events on Saturday, but not "famously hot."
Forecasters are predicting mostly cloudy skies with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the morning, according to Jeff Linton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia. The chance for rain and thunderstorms will increase to 50 percent by noon.
Temperatures will be around 68 degrees for the 7 a.m. start of the half-marathon Saturday, climbing to 75 by 9 a.m. and around 82 by noon, Linton said.
Race officials say the event is prepared to operate in a wide range of weather conditions, but exceptions include dangerously high heat and humidity, lightning, tornadoes and/or heavy precipitation.
Severe weather is not likely Saturday, but chances will be higher Friday evening, according to Linton. There will be a 50 percent chance for showers and thunderstorms around the time the Main Street Mile events go on.
Temperatures Friday evening will be in the lower to mid-80s around 6 p.m., according to Linton, who said anyone out and about in the downtown area should expect humid conditions.
Impact on other downtown events
Nearly 1,000 people have signed up for the 5K and half-marathon races Saturday.
Soda City Market, a Main Street staple that draws thousands of people to the downtown area each Saturday, goes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but Noble said the Governor's Cup races will not affect the market. A rally by teachers and state employees also will start at 9 a.m. at the State House.
Race organizers expect a majority of runners in both races to finish by 9 a.m., and both races will end on the 1100 block of Park Street in the Vista, away from the Main Street area.