The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday approved a route for what will likely be the biggest road race ever held in the city – and one that isn’t without controversy.
The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon has a five-year contract to hold its annual live music race in Raleigh, beginning on April 13. The event is held in more than 30 cities worldwide and features about 40 local and regional bands playing along the route.
The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that 7,500 to 12,000 runners from across the nation will sign up, bringing more than $2 million in visitor spending. The marathon’s presenter, Competitor Group Inc., plans to donate some of the proceeds to charities such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
“We already have 4,000 runners registered for the inaugural Rock ’n’ Roll Raleigh, even though the six-month marketing campaign doesn’t get underway until later this month,” the bureau’s Scott Dupree told the City Council.
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The red-carpet treatment for the Rock ’n’ Roll crowd has drawn fire from some local race organizers, who say they’re denied such a prime route – not to mention the $125,000 match the convention bureau is providing the marathon company.
Jim Michaels, founder of the City of Oaks Marathon, criticized the move in a recent email to the city council. He said the convention bureau only gives his event $1,500.
“With $125,000 in support, we could propose $2 million in visitor spending and actually surpass that amount,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the city has decided to support and work with CGI, a privately held, for-profit company owned by a $2.8 billion private equity firm. So much for shop local.
“Why won’t the city actually support its own local marathon event designed to showcase Raleigh and bring folks to town?”
For the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, organizers have developed what they describe as a “postcard” route showing off Raleigh’s best landmarks and neighborhoods.
The marathon starts and ends at the south end of Fayetteville Street. Runners will head up McDowell Street, pass the General Assembly building and head south on Blount Street to Shaw University. They’ll run by Chavis Park and up Bloodworth, Watauga and Glascock streets through the historic Oakwood neighborhood.
The course then turns west out Peace Street and Clark Avenue, passing Cameron Village and the Rose Garden before heading out Hillsborough Street to the State Fairgrounds.
Past marathons in Raleigh have entered the greenway system or Umstead State Park to add mileage. But the Rock ’n’ Roll crowd is too big for narrow trails, so it will head north on Blue Ridge Road and loop Reedy Creek, Trenton and Trinity roads into Cary before circling the PNC Arena and returning down Hillsborough.
The final leg of the race cuts through N.C. State on Pullen Road, then through the future Dorothea Dix Park to the Boylan Heights neighborhood and back downtown to the finish line.
Roads will be closed for much of the day. The route announcement comes as some neighborhoods have grown increasingly frustrated with routine race-related closures. Rock ’n’ Roll will be responsible for employing off-duty police officers to direct traffic.