KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Zeigler Kalamazoo Marathon made its comeback this year after being canceled for the past few years due to COVID-19.

“It’s just wonderful to have people reconnecting,” Chris Lampen-Crowell, race organizer, said.

In addition to the more than 2,000 people who participated in the various races, several volunteers helped throughout the day. One of the volunteers was a former racer from the Kalamazoo Central Honor Society, Noah Thompson. He says it’s a humbling experience helping to set up for the race.

“(It’s) definitely humbling to see how many hands it takes to set up a race. When you’re just one person running, it seems hard. But now, with all the work you have to do, I can’t even imagine,” he said.

NASCAR driver Josh Bilicki led the way as he set the pace for the 10k run. It wasn’t his first time in Kalamazoo and he said it was great to back especially since he was off this weekend.

Bilicki was invited to come to the race by Aaron Zeigler with Zeigler Auto Group, the title sponsor for the marathon.

There were many people that came out to cheer on some of the runners including 9-year-old Olive Burtis. She held a sign to support her dad who was running in the half marathon for the first time.

While her dad was training, she says she became his training buddy, running alongside him for the first few miles.

Organizers say the race is always a big deal for the city and they are looking forward to next year as they bring back the full marathon.

“There’s so much energy down here that we are going to build upon for next year,” Zeigler said. “This is the coming-out party for downtown Kalamazoo and it’s only going to get bigger and better going forward.”