Like in years past, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon should be the same as usual -- but that's a good thing, according to race director Darris Blackford.

"Really, we've worked hard over the last several years to create a great event and keep it a great event," Blackford said.

The 38th annual event will be Sunday, Oct. 15, and with more than 18,000 runners, it is one of the top 20 marathons in the U.S., according to organizers.

The full and half marathons start at 7:30 a.m. at North Bank Park, 311 W. Long St., in downtown Columbus.

The route will travel through sections of Columbus neighborhoods and suburbs, including Bexley, Olde Towne East, German Village, the Short North, the Ohio State University campus, Upper Arlington, Grandview Heights, Harrison West and Victorian Village.

Runners and thousands of spectators will converge at the corner of Spring Street and Neil Avenue, the marathon's start and finish lines.

Starting at 2 p.m. it will transform into Celebration Village, which will feature expo booths, food vendors and other activities.

The course will be lined with 100 entertainers, including disc jockeys and bands, and patient champions -- current or former patients who were selected to represent Nationwide Children's Hospital at the marathon -- will stand at 24 of the 26 mile markers.

Patient champions from central Ohio include:

* Olivia Cacchio, 9, Grove City

* Allie Crescenzi, 9, Grove City

* Bo Bidwell, 6, Heath

* Mya Garrison, 15, Blacklick

* Ally Oross, 9, Grandview

* Sawyer Gohs, 8, Bexley

* Joseph Iozzi, 4, Hilliard

* Jacob Koch, 11, Powell

* Matthew Manivilovski, 11, Delaware

* Ashlee Mascolino, 15, Hilliard

* Andrew Nichols, 11, Newark

* Anna Marie Peterman, 17, Marysville

* Halle Roper, 13, Dublin

* Joshua Rumschlag, 4, Hilliard

The other two themed miles of the route will be the Encore Mile, which includes patient champions who were honored the previous five years, and the Angel Mile, which will have families and friends honoring patients who have died.

Meanwhile, race officials and first responders are working to ensure the safety of runners and the crowd, Blackford said.

"We are dialing in really tightly with our emergency communications and safety planning," he said. "The environment that we're in, your awareness needs to be high."

The marathon is expected to raise about $1 million this year.

"This is the sixth year of our partnership with the Columbus Marathon and it's truly been incredible," said Morgen Spon, director of community partnerships for Nationwide Children's Hospital. "We have raised more than $6 million in that time for the life-saving research and care for the patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital and have engaged thousands of participants to fundraise on behalf of us.

"Additionally, we have been able to use this annual event to celebrate, engage and give hope to the patients we treat."