After two years of setbacks and cancellations due to COVID-19, the Publix Women’s Half Marathon and 5K is set to take its rightful place as Savannah’s first springtime race on Sat., April 2.
Donations and proceeds from the race will go to Girls on the Run, Coastal Georgia and Lowcountry. The nonprofit seeks to use running as a catalyst for confidence building in young girls while also teaching them life skills.
The race’s route begins on the intersection of Drayton St. and East Bolton Ln., taking runners through 12 city squares, through Washington Ave. and past Historic Grayson Stadium, before they cross the finish line at the Forsyth Park Fountain.
Part of the race weekend also will include a fashion fitness Expo at the Kehoe Iron Works building on April 1, a post-race party and a yoga session in Ellis Square on April 3.
When the 2021 race was canceled, Katelyn Presti, the director of the women’s half marathon and 5K along with her team at the Savannah Sports Council and various sponsors, worked to keep the event alive.
Virtual races allowed runners to participate and support the event during the past two years.
Runners were given the option to run the half marathon or 5K virtually, and received finisher packages upon its completion.
This will be Presti’s first time experiencing the race as its director. She expressed excitement at finally seeing two years’ worth of ideas and planning come to fruition.
“We just kept planning and then getting set back, but it didn’t stop us from trying to think of new things,” said Presti.
This year’s race will also see an increase in water stations and the addition of two Girl Scout Cookie “cheer stations” along the route. The Junior DerbyTaunts (part of Savannah Derby Devils) will also be skating from Whitaker St. to 41st St.
Tessa Jones has served as a race ambassador for four years, and will also be running the half marathon this year.
“Publix is my favorite race locally. The route is amazing. You know, it highlights Midtown, Ardsley Park, Grayson Stadium, Daffin, it kind of hits all the major spots downtown and pretty historic streets. I also think it’s just better involved with the local businesses and the communities,” said Jones.
Like Jones, Presti said that engagement with community is a key aspect of the race.
“It’s all about enhancing the running experience. We can’t control what happened the past two years, but we can control how much the community gets involved,” said Presti.
Presti said an estimated 2,000 runners will be attending this year’s race. With 80% being from out of town, and the other 20% being local.
Among these runners are hundreds of young girls from Girls on the Run, many of who are running their very first 5K.
“They’re completing their celebration run of their program, which is a 5K. There’s going to be at least 400 to 500 girls that are part of The Girls on the Run Program, so it’s going to be an explosion of pink in the back of the race,” said Presti.
Although anyone is welcome to run the marathon or 5K, Presti emphasized that this is a women’s-focused race that serves to support women of all ages and backgrounds, encouraging them to “run for the beauty, run for the challenge and run for you.”