Marathon means big crowds, some road closures


"I'm super, duper excited," runner Phanta Kirby. "This is my first official race."

Kirby and hundreds of other eager runners poured into the convention center to get a jump start on the big weekend. Over the next couple of days, more than 12,000 runners from all over the world will converge on downtown Raleigh.

People are planning where they'll park, checking into downtown hotels, and of course seeing what there is to offer at the Health and Fitness Expo that kicked off Friday.

"That's really what it's really all about, doing something great for the community but also showcasing what Raleigh is all about for people who have never been here before," said Race Director Alan Culpepper.

"I actually live outside Manhattan. So it was a good opportunity to come see here and also do this marathon together," said runner Karen Thudium.

The Health and Fitness Expo runs through Saturday with more than 80 exhibitors. Runners can pick up their numbers and get some last-minute essentials before race day.

"People can learn and see what the latest and greatest is in the industry, and then same thing tomorrow," Culpepper said. "There's clinics. There's all sorts of things for people to interact, get some good swag while there here."

It all culminates Sunday.

"I just think the energy is going to be incredible," Kirby said.

As Raleigh welcomes the biggest marathon of its kind ever in the Capital City.

"If you're brand new, this is your very first event, there's no better place because we're going to take really good care of you," Culpepper said.

Meanwhile, race day falls on one of the most important dates on the Christian calendar, and with big crowds and road closures, churches worry Sunday morning could reroute parishioners.

"The only real fear is that some people may think it's too difficult and not even try," said Dr. Chris Chapman, of First Baptist Church Raleigh."

First Baptist Church of Raleigh typically plans for a congregation of 500 on Palm Sunday. But this year, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon could reroute them. Starting at 6 a.m. Sunday, many downtown roads will be shut down.

"Every single church has been communicated with and worked with diligently. So we feel very confident about it," said Race Director Alan Culpepper.

City leaders modified the race route earlier this year after some churches complained the event would keep parishioners away.

"They made some adjustments downtown to one of the lots we would have lost, and I think they've also done a tremendous amount of communication," said Chapman. "It's still not ideal, but they've compromised."

An important day on the Christian calendar, and for people like first-time marathoner Phanta Kirby.

"Being a Christian and believer, I definitely understand," Kirby said. "I do realize the route was changed because of that. So, I get it, and we're fine with it."

If you are headed to downtown for Sunday morning church services, race organizers have posted a map online where you can get the specific route for your church.

Click here for more information.

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