All About the 2020 Nashville Marathon (St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Marathon)


Let’s get your St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Nashville Marathon (sometimes incorrectly called the Music City Marathon) adventure in Nashville off to a strong start. If possible, arrive on Wednesday so you can enjoy some of the most popular attractions before the hordes descend.

*Scroll to the end for information about drugstores, groceries and medical care.*

Arrival/Transportation Tips

If you’re driving in for the Nashville marathon, consult this macro map of interstates and main highways; for in-town navigation, take a look at this micro map.

Both Uber and Lyft are allowed to pick up at airport arrivals. A ride downtown will cost about $15 (unless surge pricing is in effect or it’s during morning drive time). Taxis charge a flat rate of $25. If you’re on a tight budget, take the WeGo (formerly known as MTA-Metro Transit Authority) bus; that’s Route 18. It will cost $2; get off at the Central stop (the downtown bus terminal).

Early Sightseeing

Among our most popular downtown attractions are our Nashville museums including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Frist Art Museum and Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. If you want a historic, humorous or general-interest view of the city, check out your tour options ranging from walking tours to party barges.

And my most popular blogpost: my Complete Guide to Honky Tonks on Broadway-but don’t go nuts before race day.

Some of the best-known down-home downtown restaurants will be hopping including moderately priced Puckett’s, Martin’s BBQJack’s BBQ and Woolworth on Fifth. Almost all of the buzzed-about upscale restaurants including Conde Nast Traveler top picks Kayne Prime, Rolf and Daughters, Henrietta Red and Bastion welcome reservations. 

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 (with its century-old steeple) 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.

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.

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.

Gain an edge on running the race with tips from a top Nashville fitness trainer.

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.


Sun Diner, Nashville, for an early bird breakfast before the marathon
Sun Diner, 105 3rd Ave. S., welcomes the early riser. Photo: TC Restaurant Grp.

If you don’t have your nutritional plan in place, I might mention that multi-level The Diner and Sun Diner are open 24 hours. 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.

Road closures for the Nashville marathon start at 3am downtown and are staggered as runners progress. For example, closures adjacent to the Bicentennial Mall start at 5:45 am.

WeGo (aka 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 for 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.

The year there are multiple locations for runner drop-off. Check the transportation page for locations as well as parking and hotel shuttle information.

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 20+ 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 first-ever Doggie Dash will be held Sunday at noon followed by the Kids Rock race at 1:30 pm.

Saturday Night Nashville Marathon Concert

A concert featuring Michael Ray and Carly Pearce 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. You can watch from outside the amphitheatre grounds free.

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.

Hermitage Cafe in Nashville
Early breakfast? Hermitage Cafe is open 10pm-1:30pm.
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. Whole Foods (1202 Broadway)
8:am 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). 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.


Where’s the closest drugstore?

Walgreen’s Our only downtown pharmacy at 226 5th Ave., N. Store hours: M-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat. 8am-7pm, Sun 9am-6pm. Pharmacy hours: M-F 7:30am-5:30pm, Closed on Sat-Sun.

RiteAid is at 1104 Rosa Parks Blvd. Store hours: 8am-10pm daily. Pharmacy hours: Mon-Sat 8am-9pm, Sat. 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm.

Kroger is almost across the street from RiteAid at 800 Monroe Street. Store hours: 6am-11pm daily. Pharmacy hours: Sun 11am-6pm, Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sun 9am-6pm.

Where’s the closest grocery/convenience store?

HG Hill Urban Market at 415 Church St. on the street level of the Viridian high-rise combines a grocery, deli and hot food counter. Fashioned after an old-time general store, most necessities can be found here. Hours: M-F, 6:30-9:00pm, Sat-Sun 8am-9pm.

Corner Market at 300 Church St. crams a ton of merchandise in a slender space. If you need a cup of non-designer coffee, a toothbrush, Red Bull or Pepto-Bismol, these folks can hook you up. Note: they’re open later than the others. Hours: Sun-Wed 7am-10pm, Th 7am-1am, Fr-Sat 7am-2am.

Whole Foods at 1202 Broadway is a full-service store with a bakery, salad bar and hot bar. Its in-house Broad Brews services coffee, beer and wine along with a short menu.

Publix is a bit hidden at 1202 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd because you enter it via a parking garage. The store is smaller than average but has all the basics and a prepared food station.

Southernaire is in SoBro, south of Broadway at 150 3rd Ave, S.. You won’t find Cheerios or Gatorade here; it’s an upscale market with artisanal products, locally grown produce, a selection of bottled craft beers, a butcher’s counter and a prepared food spot for paninis and daily specials. Hours: M-Sat 10am-5:30pm, Sun Noon-5:30pm.

Turnip Truck, located in The Gulch at 321 12th Ave. S., advertises itself as “your natural grocery.” Translation: fresh, locally sourced, whole foods along with a juice bar, salad bar and hot food bar. Hours: M-Sat 7:00am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm.

Kroger (details above) is the largest grocery but it’s beyond downtown to the north, a few blocks north of the Bicentennial Mall.

CMA Country Music Festival--healthcareWhere’s the closest walk-in clinic?

Third and Church Healthcare No appointment necessary. The website lists insurance providers it accepts. Last patient check-in is 30 minutes before closing. There’s a discount for cash payment. Hours: M-Th 8am-5pm, Fri 8am-4pm.

All other walk-in clinics are located beyond the downtown area and none stay open beyond 8pm.

The closest of these is CareNow Urgent Care in North Gulch, 1020 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd.

For after-hours care, the closest ER facilities are St. Thomas Midtown and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Call Metro Police at 615-862-8600 for non-emergency assistance.

Have a great time at the 2020 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 discover some hidden treasures in live music

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