Rebekah McLeod, Staff Writer
Thousands of runners crossed the finish line Saturday, Nov. 5, happy, exhausted and relieved, while crowds around Forsyth Park stood by cheering them on in the 2016 Rock n’ Roll Marathon. This year’s featured charity was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The Rock n’ Roll Marathon included bands stationed along the route to create a festive, fun run for competitors. Entertainers played a broad range of music, from Rockabilly with Johnny Octane, classic rock from the Everchange Band and Psychedelic Funk from Xuluprophet. This year’s finish line headliner was Old Crow Medicine Show. Other stage acts included Nickle Bag of Funk and Dangermuffin.
“Some of us have run other marathons, but Rock n’ Roll knows how to put on a good race,” Kristie Flenord, 36, of Alabama said. She and three of her running mates choose a destination race every year and this year the destination was Savannah. Flenord and her three friends, Brandi Kirk, 36, Jennifer Kissic, 36 and Ange Goss, 60, trained together for 18 weeks leading up to the race.
“We had a great time hanging out in Savannah before the race,” Kirk said, “but we’re flying home to Alabama tonight so we can be back in time for the football game.”
Local neighborhoods in Savannah were encouraged to rally and encourage the runners at Spirit Stations along the route. Prize money was offered to three of the most spirited neighborhoods, encouraging locals to dress up for the event and cheer the thousands of runners who participate in one of five races during the weekend. High School and Middle School dance and cheer teams were also encouraged to enter and compete for cash prizes up to $1,000.
The marathon series includes an entire weekend event lineup, including races ranging from one mile to a full length marathon of 26.2 miles, a health expo and live entertainment during and after the races. Laverne Arnold, 42, of Loganville drove four hours to Savannah with her running mates to participate in the full marathon. She runs with an average of eight women once a week with the Gwinnett County chapter of Moms Run This Town. Six years ago, Arnold was a stayat-home mom of two children and she weighed 260 pounds.
“The pantry was my best friend,” she said, barely out of breath past the finish line after a 26-mile run. “I lost well over a hundred pounds from running.”
The Rock n’ Roll marathon was Arnold’s third full marathon, her last one being the Columbus Soldier Marathon.
“I wanted a different experience this time,” Arnold said, referring to the excitement that Rock n’ Roll brings to the run. “With the Columbus Marathon, there aren’t very many people out there to cheer and when you finish, you pretty much finish alone.”
Arnold has run a total of 21 half marathons of 13.1 miles since September 2014. “I go through four pairs of shoes per year,” she said with a smile.
1998 marked the beginning of the Rock n ’Roll Marathon series in San Diego, which now visits more than thirty cities per year and is the most-attended running event in the country. Runners with the Rock n’ Roll series have raised over $130 million for participating charities.