AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than a year after it was last run, the Ascension Seton Austin Half Marathon and KXAN Simple Health 5K returned to Austin.

“All the setup just gets you really excited,” said Michelle Murray who traveled from New York to run the half marathon. “This is something I have been waiting for for a while I have been training through the winter to the spring until now.”

Murray was just one of more than 5,000 who signed up to either run the half marathon or 5K.

In order to protect people against COVID-19, participation was reduced by 53% this year. Start times were also staggered to encourage social distancing for runners.

“In the past there are just so many people packed in like a can of sardines, so I think the staggered start can only help,” said Ryan Davidson, a runner from Austin.

Communications manager William Dyson said density was reduced by 88%.

“At the start line and throughout the entirety of the course, just to provide some extra space for everyone out there,” he said.

The event also dropped the traditional runners expo, and finish line festival — canceling the beer garden and post-race live music that runners have come to expect over the years.

Mother, daughter duo Allison and Rebecca Brophy traveled from Cincinnati to run the race.

“Came to hang out with mom and this is one of the first big races since COVID,” said Allison Brophy.

“I was just really excited to get out there and race,” said Murray who finished with the top time for the Elite Women’s category.

While the crowds were smaller and safety was the number one focus, many runners were happy to get back out and compete.

“This year even with all the COVID precautions it was so fun just to see all the spectators back out there,” said Jordan West, who was the first runner to cross the finish line with a time of 1:07:30.