RALEIGH, N.C. – The City of Oaks is rocking and rolling again.
The 2016 Raleigh edition of the Rock n’ Roll Marathon and Half marathon kicked off on Friday at the Raleigh Convention Center.
Race and city officials were talking on a podium while a few hundred participants had lined up early, waiting for the event’s two-day Health and Fitness Expo to open.
In its third year of operation in the Triangle, the Rock n’ Roll Series running event, one of 30 worldwide, presented participants the opportunity to check-in for one or a combination of races – a 5K on Saturday and/or a half marathon or full marathon on Sunday.
The 5K event held at Dorthea Dix Park was a new addition to the past year’s longer distance events.
With many other Rock n’ Roll Series locations offering the shorter distance, it was a natural progression to do so according to Scott Dupree, executive director the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.
For half and full marathon runners, the 5K would provide a warmup for Sunday while for new or less-experienced participants, it provided an opportunity to be a part of a high-profile event as an introduction to the sport.
“It provides for more local residents to be more involved with it,” Dupree said.
“It gets people involved in running and the brand. A lot of the 5K is about getting new people into running and becoming healthier.”
Approximately 9,000 runners registered from all 50 states and nine countries would help boost local business while taking part in Competitor Group Inc. (CGI) races featuring live bands, themed water stations and community events positioned along the course.
Of those registered, 20 percent of them will be running it for the first time.
“I’m thrilled and delighted in how much this event has grown in this market in terms of how much this city has embraced this event,” Dupree continued.
“It was an unknown commodity in the first year – “what is this?” was the sentiment back then. Now in year three, to me, there is no question the city, the region, the community has embraced it. They know what it is and most importantly, they know it is a good quality, well run event that’s well organized by good people. Out of all the events that we do, I can’t say that there’s a single event that comes in more prepared in terms of management, organization, and communication.”
Having originally signed a five-year contract – a three-year agreement with a two-year option – the City decided to continue to hold the event through 2018, according to Dupree.
“CGI and the Rock n’ Roll Series is an event we’d want to stick with long term.”
Alex Bennett, senior vice president of events for CGI added that he felt that his company’s partnership with the city was a “great collaborative.”
“All the different partners that we have, the stakeholders that we have in the city here, have all come together with solutions to any problems we might have,” he said.
“It’s unique that we’ve really grown the experience part of this race. When we started, it was a half marathon and a full marathon, and now we’ve added a 5K.”
Initially considered by many local race organizers as a corporate entity that would threaten the visibility of their events, CGI has continued to work to become an exciting option and a proactive entity in the running landscape in the area.
“We are proponents of a healthy lifestyle and running,” Bennett said.
“When we come into a market, we are very sensitive to other local races. We view each city and each event as its own local community event. We don’t have a Friday night concert anywhere else, just our Raleigh event. We look at what are the needs to Raleigh, what kind of things can we do here that we can’t do at other places. We make things unique to this city. We have a lot of people who will run a lot of our races. They’ll travel around to get a different experience. The course is always going to be different in every city.”
With that said, and having a much more comfortable working relationship that’s been nurtured over time, Bennett looked forward to an exciting weekend of running for everyone involved.
“In year three, we’re a known thing now – people are now excited to come out with signs and support the runners and support the bands that are out there. We are part of the community.”