For the first time in its 33-year history, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon will amble through Ohio Stadium.

For the first time in its 33-year history, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon will amble through Ohio Stadium.

On race day Oct. 21, runners will dash through the players' entrance, trot along the edge of the field and exit on the opposite end of the stadium, race director Darris Blackford said.

"To top it off, we've also received permission for spectators to sit in the south- side stands," Blackford said. "It's sort of a game- day experience without the game."

The marathon will run a shuttle from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. between McFerson Commons in the Arena District and the stadium.

Previously, the race had passed on the outside of the stadium. Blackford said it's not uncommon for sports stadiums to open their doors to runners but the issue had never been broached locally.

"It turns out no one ever really asked: Is it possible?"

It's not the only change this year.

Nationwide Children's Hospital signed a three-year agreement to become the title beneficiary. The marathon will match the first $100,000 in donations raised for the hospital by participants in the 2012 race. The race formerly was known as the Nationwide Insurance Columbus Marathon.

About 18,000 runners -- 7,000 full marathoners and 11,000 half marathoners -- are participating in the year's event, slated to be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The 26.2-mile route will start at Third and Broad streets downtown. The finish line for both the half and full marathons is at McFerson Commons, where a celebration will be held.

The Columbus marathon is one of the 20 largest marathons in the country and is a qualifying event for the famed Boston Marathon.

The race route touches many historic neighborhoods, such as German Village, Olde Towne East, the Brewery District and Victorian Village, as well as nearby suburbs, including Bexley and Grandview Heights.

Spectators will play an important part in the marathon, spokeswoman Sarah Irvin Clark said.

The first 500 people who show up for "Breakfast in the Bleachers," held at the starting line, will get a voucher for free breakfast at Trinity Episcopal Church on South Third Street.

Spectators are asked to cheer and make signs but not hand out beverages, Clark said. Volunteer can sign up at

The race will also give a nod to the city's bicentennial celebration this year.

Every 200th person crossing the finish line will get a special dinner pack from Chipotle, Blackford said.

All of the children who run on Saturday will wear the number 200, he said.

In addition to the 200th anniversary, the city also is celebrating the 20th anniversary of a sister city arrangement with Dresden, Germany.

So, the marathon is sending 20 runners over to run the Morgenpost Dresden Marathon, which will be held the same day.

"All marathons might be the same distance, but it was kind of a unique opportunity to celebrate a pair of milestones with our city," Blackford said.