Participants from 47 states and 12 countries will gather in downtown Baton Rouge this weekend for the second annual Louisiana Marathon to experience a vast array of local food and Louisiana-style live entertainment and running.

The Louisiana Marathon kicks off a plethora of events today that extend until Sunday, offering visitors and participants a chance to unwind and take part in a running event like no other in the region.

“It started out to be that Baton Rouge — or the Gulf Coast — doesn’t really have a locally run event, or a signature running festival,” said marathon Marketing Director Danny Bourgeois.

Bourgeois co-founded the marathon with Race Director Craig Sweeney and Course Director Patrick Fellows in 2010.

The founders strategically chose Baton Rouge as the location for the marathon and hosted the inaugural event in 2012.

“For runners, it’s a chance to go somewhere that’s not as high profile, so they get a chance to feel more intimately involved,” Bourgeois said.

The trio also recognized a need to incorporate Louisiana’s culture and lifestyle into the event.

“You live here to have fun and eat; you live here because it’s a great place to live and you spend a lot of time with friends, family and food. But if you can interject a run in between each one of those gatherings, you’re going to live a pretty good, balanced life,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois’ rationale helped the founders come up with the marathon’s motto: “Run, eat, dance, laugh.”

The weekend events are scheduled in relation to the motto, with multiple opportunities to do each activity listed.

Today’s events include an expo in the atrium of the Belle of Baton Rouge, which will run until Saturday and is open to the public.

“Fifty vendors, some national and some local, will be present at the expo,” Sweeney said.

The expo will feature guest speakers with personal stories as well as advice to aspiring runners. Starting at 7 p.m. tonight, The Michael Foster Project will perform downtown at the Hilton Hotel.

Saturday morning, The Advocate Cypress 5K will begin at 8 a.m. and The Advocate Kids Marathon will begin at 9:30 a.m., ending with a Family Fest post-race party at the Louisiana State Museum.

The Family Fest will begin at 9 a.m. and include activities such as face painting, an obstacle course and local children’s bands.

The Louisiana Marathon and the Half-Marathon will take place at 7 a.m. Sunday, starting at the steps of the state Capitol.

“It starts right in front the Capitol, then down North Boulevard, City Park, LSU and around the lakes,” Sweeney said. “The half- marathon runners return back downtown. The full marathon runners head out to Tara and Goodwood subdivisions.”

A finish festival, including various food items from local restaurants and two live bands, will welcome runners as they cross the finish line into AZ Young Park.

The marathon will close the weekend with a race after-party in the Manship Theatre, with special guest Papa Grows Funk.