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Friday, November 8, 2013 - 8:01pm

Rock N' Roll Runners Stream In For Savannah Marathon

Downtown Savannah is filled with people in town for the Rock 'N Roll Marathon.

Runners will step off on Saturday at 7am.

Event organizers and Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson officially opened the event at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center on Hutchinson Island on Thursday.

Jackson greeted runners as they walked into the center's main hall.

"Come run with us!" she said with a smile after she opened the doors for registration and a health expo.

Marathon-related events will continue through Sunday.

The Rock 'n Roll Marathon is now the second-largest tourist draw in Savannah.The event, which combines running and on-stage entertainment, is behind only St. Patrick's Day in terms of attracting out-of-town visitors.

The run attracts about 30,000 people to the city.

Keeping them and the public protected, the city's interim police chief was on hand to talk to reporters about marathon public safety preparations. She had some helpful advice for locals.

"If you do not have to come into the area, it would be adviseable not to," said the interim chief, Julie Tolbert. "We are not going to open the roadway short of an emergency vehicle coming through."

Streets in downtown Savannah and in several other areas of the city will be closed to vehicular traffic for much of the day.

Event organizers stressed that the disruption will be minimized as much as possible.

"Downtown is definitely open for business," said Malain McCormick, who organized the event for the Competitor Group. "Just note the website when you're looking to see where you're going."

She said that Bay Street, a main artery, for instance, would be open by 9am and that she had worked with neighborhood associations to identify ways for residents to enter and leave the area.

Disruption seemed to be the last thing on the minds of those who came to run or walk the route's 13 or 26 miles through Savannah's leafy neighborhoods.

Guergen and Kelhi Englerth came from Munich, Germany, to run and visit with family in the region. They were among the first in line and asked to be photographed with the Mayor.

"We've been to Rock 'n Roll Marathons before, like in Seattle," said Kelhi Englerth, who is running the half-marathon. "We just love the atmosphere, the music and also Savannah because it seemed like a really pretty city and we wanted to see it."

Guergen Englerth said that Saturday's run was his 20th marathon or ultra marathon this year.

This is the couple's first visit to Savannah.

Beth Deloria of Greensboro, N.C. has one useful leg and is running with a brace. This is her 49th race to raise awareness of disability issues.

"Never, never get up," Deloria says. "Find a passion that will help push you and drive the energy, whether its your family, whether its a hobby, something else."

Deloria says her disability at first dispirited her. But she realized that she could take one step at a time. When she walks now, from a distance, it's hard to tell that she's disabled at all.

"I've met so many fabulous people along this journey and several of the people are joining me this year that last year were in the same situation I was and never though they would run again," Deloria says. "And they're out here running."

I interviewed Deloria on Chippewa Square and gave her directions to walk around Savannah and get something to eat.

She's like many race visitors, getting to know this tourism-dependant city because of a love of running.

An economic impact study found that event participants like Deloria and the Englerths contribute to the event's $32 million economic impact.

You can find out more information on the race at this link.