ST PAUL, Minn. — Nothing compares to the rush of packet pick-up ahead of a big race.
Especially during Twin Cities Marathon weekend, which will be held in-person this year for the first time since 2019.
On Friday evening, hundreds of runners milled through the St. Paul RiverCentre to grab packets and race bibs, many filled with two years worth of pent-up energy.
"All these virtual races, when it's all you can do – it's not quite the same," said Brad Boleman, who will be running the marathon Sunday with his daughter Hanna. "It's exciting to get ready for this."
Virginia Brophy Achman, the executive director of Twin Cities In Motion, looked out at the pack of runners in the RiverCentre and smiled.
"It's very comforting to be back here and see all our friends and the community," Brophy Achman said. "The fall tradition is back. That's what feels good."
However, there will be some key changes to the 2021 event due to COVID-19. Most notably, runners will have to wear masks at the start and finish lines, masks will be required in indoor spaces like tents, and the race fields will be half-capacity. At the finish line, taller fencing has been added to discourage people from gathering in large groups to watch the runners finish (if you are looking for a loved one or friend, you can meet them at a designated Family Reunion section near the state capitol).
Brophy Achman said about 4,500 runners are expected to compete in the full marathon, with about 8,500 expected for the 10-miler and 4,500 for Saturday events.
"To be able to come back, even at half-capacity, is big. We are allowed to be running on the roads, which is a big deal. That means that's more normal, and what we're all used to," Brophy Achman said, "and it allows the community to come watch."
Hanna Boleman said the spectators will help fuel her during the marathon. Although she'll start the race with her dad, they may run at slightly different paces.
"It's a little harder to keep up with her. She'll run a lot faster than I would," Brad Boleman joked. "But we'll start together and finish and then see each other at the end, for sure... it's a fun father-daughter thing to have and run with each other."