RALEIGH, N.C. – In front of a gathering crowd of participants at the Raleigh Convention Center, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon officially kicked off its pre-race events on Friday.
City and race officials along with representatives from the V Foundation for Cancer Research welcomed those in attendance with some brief comments before opening the event’s free Health and Fitness expo to race participants and the general public.
Live music from local band Leeward Fate played in the background while the hundreds in line entered the exhibit hall to pick up their race packets and immerse themselves in the 100-plus booths and exhibits that featured the latest in running technologies, fitness apparel and interactive displays.
The two-day expo will continue through Saturday before the race takes place on Sunday morning when 12,500 runners from 49 states and five countries will take to the streets of the city to complete both full and half-marathon courses.
Last year, race operator Competitor Group, Inc. added Raleigh to the series of 28 other entertainment-themed Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons the company operates around the world, including race sites like Virginia Beach, Savannah, Phoenix, New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Antonio to name a few.
Bringing the event to the City of Oaks has not only presented a sense of excitement for runners and walkers, but for the organizers as well.
“Our staff is really excited to come to Raleigh,” Alan Culpepper, regional vice president for events said.
“We do so many events around the country, but Raleigh is a place that not a lot of them have been, which is partially why we wanted to do the event here. We wanted to get people to Raleigh who hadn’t been here while also putting on a high quality local race.”
According to Culpepper, holding a race in Raleigh, the first that the company will stage in the Carolinas connects those held in Virginia Beach, Va. and Savannah, Ga. and feeds the need for such an event to accommodate the local running community.
“That was definitely part of it,” Culpepper continued.
“In terms of the volume of runners – it’s very high with the level of people that are active in running.”
With novice to professional runners taking part, the sold out event will allow participants to take in the sights of the city while passing by musical performers and bands at every mile marker along the way.
In addition, it is expected that 15-20,000 more people will come watch and support the runners on race day while also enjoying the entertainment and related festivities that the event will provide.
“We cater to the whole gamut,” Culpepper said.
“We put on a very authentic road race and that’s the key. It’s timed, so if you want to come and qualify for the Boston Marathon next year, you can do that. If you want to qualify for the Olympic trials, we’ll help you do that. But, that’s a small percentage (of participants), so we like to make sure we’re still focused on the masses. A large number, with one in four people, this is their very first event, so that’s why we want to give them something that will really set the bar high, but also set the tone that ‘this is fun’. It’s not just about grinding your teeth and getting through it and then saying, ‘I’ll never do that again’. We want to do the opposite of that.”
As the music played in the background, the first few hundred of the thousands expected to enter the expo throughout the weekend got rocking and rolling by showing nothing less than smiling faces and positive energy levels that will eventually spill out onto the streets of Raleigh in the coming days.