The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, now in its third year in Raleigh, is expecting fewer runners this time around, but the race will block traffic as thousands take to the city’s streets Sunday morning.
About 6,200 runners signed up for the 13.1-mile half-marathon, and 1,500 signed up for the full-marathon, according to race organizers. The total of 7,700 runners is fewer than last year, when 8,300 people registered.
Raleigh’s inaugural Rock ’n’ Roll race in 2014 drew 12,500 registrants.
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Race organizers expected the number of runners to decline after the first year’s excitement, said Dan Cruz, a spokesman for California-based Competitor Group, which operates the Rock ’n’ Roll marathon series.
The event is becoming more of a weekend-long affair, with a fitness expo open to the public on Friday and Saturday at the Raleigh Convention Center, a 5K race on Saturday and the big race and concerts on Sunday.
“It’s really become like a social experience for the runners today,” Cruz said.
The 5K, called the “remix challenge,” is a new event this year in an effort to expand the race weekend. About 2,000 runners will make their way through the Dorothea Dix campus off of Western Boulevard on Saturday morning.
Organizers chose Dix Park after considering a variety of Raleigh locations, said Ted Metellus, race operations director for Competitor Group.
“There’s nothing that captures the essence of the city better than Dorothea Dix,” Metellus said.
Hosting the 5K race at Dix should minimize traffic jams on Saturday. But Sunday’s races, which wind through downtown and N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, will affect traffic.
“There will be delays, but we will be working to alleviate that as much as possible,” said Capt. Craig Haines with the Raleigh Police Department’s Special Operations Division.
He said the marathon route did not change much from last year, and police are prepared to control traffic.
Officers have been putting up signs and leaving fliers on the windshields of cars along the route, warning drivers to move their vehicles by early Sunday or risk being towed, Haines said.
As the last runner clears a section of the course, police will reopen the area to traffic.
“What we’re going to do is what we call a rolling opening as the trail moves,” Haines said.
Downtown church-goers can use special passes provided by race organizers to drive through route crossings Sunday morning.
Most churches are not delaying services, but Mark Turner, business manager at First Presbyterian Church on Salisbury Street, said he expects low turnout. Some church members will likely skip to avoid traffic headaches.
“It’s an inconvenience for us,” Turner said. “But it’s a good thing for downtown Raleigh.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi