2019 Nashville St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Marathon Survival Guide

Officially it’s the 2019 St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Nashville Marathon but locals often call it the Music City Marathon. Sprint through these marathon tips for runners and significant others.

The NFL Draft Is Also In Town

If you’ve marathoned before, here’s your biggest change: the NFL Draft, possibly bringing as many as 200,000 people downtown, overlaps the race Thursday-Sunday. That’s in addition to the 30,000 runners who typically participate in the races.

Most activities take place at Riverfront Park/Lower Broadway Honky Tonk District and across the Cumberland River in the Nissan Stadium parking lot. Expect massive crowds in the area.

*There’s also a possibility of NHL playoff games taking place at Bridgestone Arena during the Draft. Aaaand there’s also a Jimmy Buffett concert.

Arriving for the Nashville Marathon

Let’s get your Nashville marathon adventure off to a strong start: if possible, arrive on Wednesday so you can enjoy some of the most popular attractions before the hordes descend.

Transportation tips Both Uber and Lyft are allowed to pick up at airport arrivals. A ride downtown will cost about $10. If you’re on a tight budget, take Metro Transit Authority’s bus; that’s Route 18. It will cost $1.70 and its third stop is Music City Center.

Early Sightseeing

Among our most popular downtown attractions are the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Frist Art Museum, Ryman Auditorium and Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. The Honky Tonk District will be lively–but don’t go nuts before race day.

Some of the best-known down-home downtown restaurants will be hopping including Puckett’s, Martin’s BBQJack’s BBQ and Woolworth on Fifth. All of the buzzed-about upscale restaurants welcome reservations. You’ll find a ton of tour options with everything from walking tours to party barges.

Expo and registration: Music City Center, Nashville
Music City Center: Nashville Marathon registration and Expo

Registration and Fitness Expo

You must pick up your own Nashville Marathon packet–no one else can get it for you–at the Music City Center on Thursday, noon-7pm and Friday, 10am-7pm. There’s an end of the day crush so get there as early as possible. While there, take advantage of the Health & Fitness Expo–it’s FREE for everyone.

The MCC is two blocks south of Broadway between 6th Ave. S. and 8th Ave. S. For reference, First Baptist Church is near the top of the hill at 7th Ave. S. and Broadway. Look for the old steeple.

For $15, you can park beneath the MCC. There are additional lots at varying costs around the area. Or you can park free at Nissan Stadium on Thursday and Friday–about a10-block walk. Shuttles are also available.

Personally I hate lugging around swag so, if feasible, drop off your marathon goodie bag at your car or hotel, then hit the town unencumbered. You can also store your stuff for the day in a locked closet at Nashville Downtown Hostel for $5-10 a day if space is available.

Live Music and Other Entertainment

You probably want to squeeze as much live music and such into all your free time. And you don’t have to like country music. You’ll find rock, pop, blues, jazz, EDM and more–something for every taste. Rather than get long-winded about happenings, let me refer you to NowPlayingNashville and our local alternative weekly Nashville Scene which is strong in non-country music. There’s non-stop live music between 5th Ave. and the river at the 20+ honky tonks in the area.

On Saturday night, Dierks Bentley headlines a show on the main stage. Runners get in free.

Friday Evening

If you’ve been training, I shouldn’t have to remind about alcohol consumption and crazy eating the night before the race. Save most of your celebrating until Saturday.

The restaurants and bars along Lower Broadway will be packed. Try the side streets where the body count may be lower. So many other blogs go into great detail about Nashville dining that I leave the reviews to them. If time and finances permit, explore Midtown, the Gulch, Germantown, East Nashville, SoBro and Midtown–all with a high density of restaurants and bars–and none are more than three miles from Music City Center.

If you’re staying beyond the downtown area, you shouldn’t experience quite as much overcrowding in bars and restaurants–unless they have garnered a lot of Internet buzz.

Saturday Parking

Street parking is in short supply and I don’t think any meters have time limits above two hours.  You can consult ParkItDowntown for locations of pay lots. The cheapest parking is found at the Downtown Library parking garage and the Metro Courthouse lot.

Pre-purchase shuttle passes are sold out but you might check at registration for cancellations or late-minute additions. These spots are at Nissan Stadium Lots N and R. Limited free parking is available in Nissan lots A, B, C and D. The lots open at 4 am and it’s recommended that you arrive no later than 6am.


Hermitage Cafe in Nashville
Early breakfast? Hermitage Cafe is open 10pm-1:30pm.

If you don’t have your nutritional plan in place, I might mention that The Diner and Sun Diner are open 24 hours. Each level of the multi-story restaurant has a distinct menu and vibe. Another option is the beloved greasy-spoon Hermitage Cafe’ about eight blocks south of Broadway. It OPENS at 10pm and stays open until 1:30pm the next day. From there, it’s downhill to the starting line.

Getting to the Starting Line

With the exception of the Music City Star that runs from Lebanon to downtown Nashville, we don’t have a railway option. That leaves street transportation.

Unless you’re within walking distance of the starting line, allow A LOT of extra time to get downtown. Lyft and Uber will be operating at their higher rates. Cabs will be very busy as well.

MTA buses will get you there but check the route carefully, then check the website posting for detours. If you’re traveling by bus, download the free app Music CIty Transit Tracker for real-time monitoring of bus arrivals.

Road closures start at 5:45 am; make sure your intended route isn’t blocked off. The WAZE app can be downloaded with up-to-date information.

The starting line for the Full and Half Marathon is Broadway at Rosa Parks Blvd (also known as 8th Ave.)

The starting line for the 5k is on Demonbreun Street between 6th and 7th Ave. S.

Runner drop-off  is at the Korean Veterans Blvd. between 4th and 5th Ave. S. for everyone. Runner pick-up is on Sylvan Street off South 2nd St. That’s near Nissan Stadium.

See the link below for Kidz Rock race info.

Consult the Nashville Rock’n’Roll Marathon’s transportation page for additional information including parking and a list of hotel shuttles.

The Races

The 5K starts at 6:45am, the marathon/half-marathon at 7:15am.

People rave about two distinctions of the Nashville races: live music all along the way and the rallying support from people who line the streets to cheer you on. Like many, we set up a curbside brunch with friends to watch the masses sprint past.

This year there are 27 stages with live entertainment along with convenient water and first aid stations. The 5k runners will hear live music from four stages.

In addition to downtown, distance runners will hoof it past Music Row, Belmont University, the trendy neighborhoods of 12South, The Gulch, Germantown and East Nashville.

The Kids Rock race is held on Sunday at 1pm.

Saturday Night Concert

A concert featuring an as-yet-unnamed artist will take place at Ascend Amphitheatre on 1st Avenue S., next to the Pedestrian Bridge. Registered runners get in free; concert tickets can be purchased separately. Last year’s show featuring Hunter Hayes was a sell-out with overflow crowds standing outside the concert grounds for free. Expect the same with this year’s headliner Dierks Bentley.

There’s also a Jimmy Buffett concert Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena @ 8pm with Huey Lewis & The News as the opening act. Prices start around $80 each.

Run smarter with valuable tips from a local fitness trainer and Nashville Marathon veteran.

While the runner is running…

you needn’t sit idly by. Here’s how you can use that window of time productively.

24 hrs: Sun Diner, The Diner,
10pm-1:30pm (yes, it’s an overnight restaurant) Hermitage Cafe’
6:00am Panera, Bongo Java (local coffee shop/Omni Hotel), Drug Store Coffee (operated by Barista Parlor local coffee chain/Noelle Hotel)
7 am Frothy Monkey, Puckett’s , Wild Eggs, Biscuit Love (Gulch), Another Broken Egg, Pinewood Social, 417 Union, Gray & Dudley.
8:00 Tin Cup Coffee Tip: If you just want quick and cheap, try Mike’s Ice Cream on 2nd Ave. N. where muffins, bagels and pastries are $1.95 each.
Also in the central business district: Dunn Brothers coffee (401 Church St.) and Starbucks (too many to list).

If you’d like to travel beyond downtown, I’d recommend Monell’s in Germantown for their family-style all-you-can-eat breakfast, the popular (but not necessarily worth a one-hour wait) Pancake Pantry (Hillsboro Village), the legacies-in-lard biscuit nirvana of Loveless Cafe’ and Biscuit Love (the Gulch and Hillsboro Village)The Garden Brunch Cafe’ (near Germantown) is reported to have a lovely brunch but I can’t speak from personal experience. If you go to Pancake Pantry and find the line is just too long, you have breakfast alternatives in the Hillsboro Village area.


Come Sunday, the Nashville airport will be packed so get there a minimum of 1.5 hours ahead of your flight. You can check on expected wait times at TSA security checkpoints by visiting the official Nashville airport website. Tip: the line is almost always longer near the Southwest/American checkpoint than the security station nearer the other airlines. Both lead to the same place and you can proceed to the desired gate. If you have time after passing security, try one of our local restaurants in the airport.

Have a great time at the 2019 St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Nashville Marathon…and y’all come back now, ya hear?

Now a little friendly advice if you’re looking for ways to save on purchases, want to eat hot chicken without spontaneously combusting or learn about our wealth of Nashville museums.

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