Environment
6:27 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

For Downtown Raleigh Churches, Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon May Mean Undue Penance

Photo: The Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half-Marathon
The starting line of the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half-Marathon
Credit Competitor Group

On a Sunday morning in early June, thousands of endurance athletes ran through downtown Raleigh in the city’s Ironman Triathlon. This Sunday, thousands are expected for the City of Oaks Marathon. And on a Sunday next April, many more could show for the first Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. 

Hundreds of downtown churchgoers, whose churches are surrounded by street closings for event routes, have wound up in gridlock.  For the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, which features live bands and cheerleaders, even more worshippers than usual will be looking for a way in because the event is scheduled for April 13th -- Palm Sunday.  

That’s why organizers from the San Diego-based Competitor Group, which organizes the Rock ’n’ Roll series in cities across the country, have been meeting with church leaders to talk about how they can tweak the race’s route to improve access to their places of worship – and minimize noise from race supporters or live performers.

"It seems like … people want the course somehow to come through downtown, and we understand it’s historic, it’s interesting, it’s also fairly flat, and a lot of the city is pretty hilly," said the Rev. Chris Chapman of Fist Baptist Church on Salisbury Street. "It challenges us to able to make things work, and to be good neighbors to everybody else."

There are about a half-dozen churches within a two-block radius of just the State House buliding. Chapman said he met with race organizers on Wednesday and that they told him they would alter part of the route so the roughly 500 parishioners he’s expecting on Palm Sunday can access a parking lot on the corner of Salisbury and Hillsborough streets.