The Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon has brought runners from all over Wisconsin and beyond since its inception as part of the La Crosse Fitness Festival in 2009.

Crowds of spectators and runners will fill the streets again Saturday as the event makes its ninth appearance with the half marathon, 5K, kids races and assorted relays that have been staples of its schedule.

The Dahl Family YMCA is hosting a health and fitness expo today. It begins at noon and ends at 8 p.m. The expo includes a dozen vendors related to the health industry with everything from apparel to nutrition plans and information.

The first race of the weekend is the Bluff Time Trial, which takes cyclers and runners a mile-and-a-half up the 500 feet of Grandad Bluff. The cycling time trial begins at 4:30 p.m. and the running trial at 5:30 p.m.

The half marathon begins at 8 a.m. on top of Grandad Bluff and concludes at Riverside Park, while the 5K begins at 8:30 a.m. with the start and finish at Riverside.

“A big thing for the half marathon is to pace yourself, especially when going down Grandad Bluff,” said event organizer and owner of Grand Bluff Running Tyler Heinz. “Just pace yourself at your normal time and try not to go down to fast because that can really tire you out.”

The abundance of activities don’t stop there with a bicycle criterium — hosted by the 7 Rivers Region Outdoor Alliance — taking place at the La Crosse Center on Sunday.

“It’s definitely one of my favorite events to watch for the weekend. There are so many categories of riders that loop around the La Crosse Center, and there are several races within that event, so it’s pretty neat to see,” Heinz said. “We’re partner events, and we want to make it about more than just one sport.”

When the full weekend of running and biking activities come to an end, Heinz has one goal in mind that he wishes to see carried out.

“Our goal is to bring a bigger meaning to not only the events but the city itself and everything it has to offer. The impact is wide reaching with benefitting different charities in the area,” Heinz said. “City-wide events like this bring the community together because no matter where you live, you can see it, and it makes you feel included.

“We just want to bring a bigger meaning to what’s happening.”

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La Crosse city government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

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