It's that time again — the 33rd Annual JetBlue Long Beach Marathon and Half Marathon.

An estimated 20,000 runners and bike riders will pack the city streets Sunday morning, running 26.2 miles, or 13.1 miles or riding 20 miles. That's a lot of closed streets.

Each year, marathon organizers reach out to impacted neighborhoods, warning of closures and offering alternatives to get in or out of the area. While most neighborhoods have at least one "escape route," some people trying to get home may find the way blocked until the slowest runners go by.

The full marathon route has stayed the same for several years. Organizers boast that it is a very flat course, rising to a mere 54 feet above sea level, and significant portions offer a view of the ocean. It starts (and finishes) on Shoreline Drive, heading southwest first, toward the Queen Mary. There's a tour around the waterfront, then the runners head down the beach path toward Belmont Shore.

Runners move from the beach to Ocean Boulevard at Bay Shore Drive, starting the street closures that impact residents. The route goes up to Livingston Drive, takes a right and heads for Marine Stadium via Park Avenue. There's a jog down the stadium and back, then it's on to the Cal State Long Beach campus — including crossings at Seventh Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

Cheerleading teams, bands and more urge the runners through the campus loop before they hit Atherton again and start the trip back. Steps are retraced back up Livingston, and then it's a drive down Ocean Boulevard to Shoreline Drive, the finish line and the Finish Line Festival (with a free beer for runners).

According to the notice sent to residents, all streets will close at 5 a.m., and most of the closed streets will reopen right around noon, as the last runners go by. The exceptions are Ocean Boulevard (closed until 2 p.m. in both directions between Livingston and Alamitos Avenue) and Shoreline Drive (until 5 p.m. between Ocean and Shoreline Village). The stretch of Shoreline between Shoreline Village and the 710 Freeway will be the first to reopen, at 10 a.m.

Major street closures in southeast Long Beach include Nieto Avenue between Appian Way and Broadway; Appian between Nieto and Park Avenue; Park between Appian and Anaheim Street; Fourth Street between Monrovia and Orlena avenues; Monrovia between Fourth and Sixth streets; Atherton Street between Bellflower Boulevard and Palo Verde Avenue in both directions, and westbound between Clark Avenue and Bellflower; smf Anaheim Street between Clark and PCH.

The full marathon and the bike tour start at 6 a.m. Sunday, and the half marathon, which turns around near the Livingston and Ocean Boulevard intersection, starts at 7:30 a.m. Marathon runners have seven and a half hours to finish; they will be picked up by "sweepers" after that.

Marathon activity begins Friday, with the opening of the Health and Fitness Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center. The expo, open from noon to 7 p.m., is free and open to the public; it's also where participants pick up their race packets. The expo is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Only those who have arranged day-of package pickup in advance will be allowed to skip the health expo.

Also Saturday, there will be lots of activity at the Aquarium of the Pacific — a major marathon sponsor. It starts at 7 a.m. with the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K run/walk, which runs through the aquarium itself. Then from 9 to 11 a.m., it's the 1-mile Kids Run, which goes off in waves just like the marathon and half marathon. Many Long Beach Junior Beach Runners will be completing their summer-long marathon that day.

Race organizers said that spectators are always welcomed at every part of the course. One estimate says that up to 100,000 people will see part of the race.

One person to watch for, at least if you're on the half-marathon part of the course, is Mark Taylor, Mayor Robert Garcia's chief of staff. Taylor has run the half marathon each year since the race was revived nearly a decade ago.

"I run the Long Beach half marathon because I always enjoy running a great course along the Pacific Ocean, in my hometown," the often pragmatic Taylor said. "And training for it forces me to run more miles than I would otherwise."

For more information, including tips on how to get in and out of neighborhoods, look for the residents' notice or go to www.runlongbeach.com.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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