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Runners pound the pavement preparing for Red Wing's River City Ramble

Athletes from 18 states will travel to Red Wing Saturday July 30 to try to set national records, achieve personal fitness goals or simply get some exercise as they race in the River City Ramble.

The Ramble features a half marathon, half marathon relay, 5K run/walk and children's race. Race director Wade Bergner said he expects a turnout of more than 1,000 runners -- including some from as far away as New York, Florida and Texas.

The large numbers are partly a result of the half marathon, which was added to the Ramble just a few years ago. Prior to that, the featured races were a 10K and 5K.

"This is something I wanted to grow into something big and we're starting to get there," Bergner said.

The half marathon is a certified race, which means runners can set national and state age group records in it.

Racing through Red Wing

Bay Point Park marks the starting and end points of the course, but runners will see much more of the town than just the park.

"With Red Wing having the charm that it has, we carved out a nice course," Bergner said.

Leading off on Levee Road, half marathon participants will make their way west and then south as they cross Old West Main, ultimately heading to Hay Creek Trail. The trail continues to about the 6 1/2-mile mark of the course, where runners will start going north, back to where they started. The 5K shares parts of the half marathon course and also finishes at Bay Point Park.

About every two miles along the half marathon course, water stations will be set up to aid runners. Another helpful addition to the race are the pacers -- people who will carry signs that say projected finish line time. That allows other runners to know what kind of time they will get if they stick with that person throughout the half marathon.

"They create a lot of energy and have a good time with the runners," Bergner noted.

Awarding the winners

The first three male and female runners to cross the finish line for the half marathon will no doubt be welcomed with applause, but they'll also earn free Vasque Trail shoes in addition to a piece of Red Wing Pottery made specifically for the race.

Other race participants won't leave empty-handed either.

All half marathon finishers will receive a race authentic finisher medal, and all registered participants of both the 5K and half marathon get a race T-shirt to take home.

Never too late to run

Registration for the Ramble has been open for weeks, but it doesn't close until the morning of race day, so anyone interested can still join in.

Even if people haven't been very active and don't think two weeks is enough time to get prepared for such an athletic event, Bergner said they should consider taking part in the Ramble anyway.

"Take it as a challenge -- walk part of it and run part of it."