LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Derby Festival's miniMarathon is underway, but the last runners won't cross the finish line for days.

The first runners took off from the start line early Thursday near Lynn Family Stadium. The pandemic required modifications to just about every part of the race for runners, including the course, traffic patterns and the way the mini is organized.

The mini is spread out over the next four days. Runners started at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and small groups took off every 15 minutes until 11:30 a.m. That's how it will work through Sunday. The goal is to keep groups smaller to allow for more social distancing.

There are also fewer runners this year. Typically the mini and marathon have 12,000 to 15,000 runners. This year there are only 5,000, plus another 1,000 running the virtual race.

Runners like Jaime Alegnani of Louisville say the changes are worth it, if it means they get to race again.

"It was very well organized, how they spaced it. You get to run a path you wouldn't normally get to race on, so it was really nice," Alegnani said.

"It's just exciting to be back with other runners, be outside, have a finish line and be able to have that medal around your neck at the end of the race as, opposed to virtual," said Cameron Walsh of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The course has major changes, as well. Instead of running through the city and into south Louisville, runners follow a loop that includes the Big Four Bridge and into Indiana before coming back to Louisville.

The mini and marathon will keep some streets closed along the course including Adams Street and River Road near the stadium and Riverside Drive in Jeffersonville and Clarksville during the race.

The KDF Humana Marathon runs on Saturday. That's when Water Street in New Albany will also close. All of the closures will run through Sunday -- the last day for the mini.

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