“It’s really not that horrible,” said Brian Danza, president of DC Road Runners, an organization that has helped train runners for the event. “I would much rather run up that hill than slog my way up 18th, Connecticut and Columbia.”
D.C. wasn’t always the road-racing-crazed town that it is now. In 2006, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance started the first D.C. National Marathon, with fewer than 700 finishers (no data is available on how many may have dropped out along the way). As the marathon grew in popularity, so did the corporate interest, and SunTrust bank became the official sponsor in 2008.
But by 2011, the race had gotten crowded and chaotic. Runners complained about the lack of mile markers and course time clocks throughout the event and disorganization at the starting line.
Also, Washington’s cash-strapped Metro could not adjust its Saturday schedule for the race. Without an early Metro train, many runners who relied on public transportation came late to the start.
In July 2011, CGI, a global media and event entertainment company, swooped in to acquire the SunTrust National Marathon. It was rebranded as SunTrust Rock ‘n’ Roll USA under CGI’s flagship Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.
With the new leadership came better organization. Mile markers returned to each post, as well as course clocks around the route. Metro has announced it will open at 5 a.m. to accommodate runners. The corrals in 2012 were more organized than in 2011, according to several race-goers who ran both years. CGI has increased capacity and turnout. In 2011, runner capacity was 15,000, nearly half of what Rock ‘n’ Roll expects for 2013 at the sold-out event.
“We take pride in providing a well-organized event that focuses on the runner experience from start to finish,” Zocks said. “The start line will have 33 corrals segmented by anticipated finish times (wave start), and there will be clear mile marks, kilometer marks and other necessary signage on the course.”
“Competitor Group has fairly deep pockets, tons of logistical experience, pre-negotiated sponsorship deals, and name brand recognition. All of these things bring a level of professionalism to the event that was hard to achieve by a nonprofit organization. All of these things have largely changed the race for the better, giving all runners a more uniform experience, with all the amenities they have come to expect,” Danza said.
“I am, however, weary of organizations that cater to people who have not adequately trained to run a marathon. It is a serious endeavor, and should not be treated as a life ‘check-box’,” Danza added.
“Check-box” or not, a marathon is an impressive run and inspiring to watch. Race-running and race-watching tips are included here.