ATLANTA - Claudia Hale of Lawrenceville plans to explore downtown Atlanta this weekend in a way she says she never has.
Hale will run in the ING Georgia Marathon on Sunday with other runners from Gwinnett and metro Atlanta.
With a start time of 7 a.m., runners will start the 26.2 mile trek from Peachtree Street at Woodruff Park and continue through Virginia Highlands and wrap back around to a Peachtree Street finish line.
A 13-mile half marathon will also take place as part of the inaugural race, plus a Health and Fitness Expo with free activities such as natural food tastings, drawings and a children's fun run will start downtown Friday and continue until Saturday.
Jenny Schmitt, race public information coordinator, said 15,000 people are signed up to run races.
"It's really rare for an inaugural race to sell out," Schmitt said. "So we're really proud of that. This puts us in the top 15 marathons in the United States."
Although Schmitt said many runners prepare months in advance for a marathon, Hale, who has been running for fitness purposes for 14 years, said she decided only a month ago she would run the ING Marathon.
"I've just done long runs, ramping them (the runs) up every other week," Hale said of how she prepared for the run. "I run in the morning before work and do long runs on the weekends before everyone's up and going."
Hale said she generally does 7 to 10 miles for morning runs and for the last month has upped her mileage to about 22 miles on long weekend stints.
"It's a time to take the opportunity to enjoy nature, spend time by yourself and it's something that makes you feel good that you're doing something that's good for you," Hale said of why she runs.
The 41-year-old runner said she plans to drink a lot of fluids during the run and she often listens to music and often uses edible sports gels to keep her energy up.
The wife and mother of two said she is not trying to place, her goal is just to finish the run, which is only her second marathon.
"The other marathon I did was in New Orleans and I'm hoping this one will be as good as that one," Hale said. "It's a chance to explore the city (Atlanta) in a way I haven't done before."
Although both races are sold out, Schmitt said she expects a large turn out for the expo Friday and Saturday and is confident the race will return to Atlanta again next year.
"A lot of people live for that shirt and medal they get at the end of the race," Schmitt said. "They say 'I want something for all that misery.'"