Locals rock in marathon, half marathon
Posted April 12, 2015
Updated March 24, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The daylong, downtown party that is the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon had a distinctly local theme. The male half-marathon winner and the female winner of the marathon were both Triangle residents.
Raleigh's Bobby Mack, a graduate assistant coach on the North Carolina State University track team, won the half marathon in a little over an hour. A woman from Durham finished first among her gender in the full marathon. Heidi Bretscher of Durham won that race in 3:07:00.
"It feels great to win a race in Raleigh," Mack said. "The fans, the bands, the course, it was all really motivating for runners. It's awesome to win a race in your hometown."
Behind the competitive runners, thousands of weekend warriors finished the course in good spirits, spurred by musical entertainment along the course and cheering crowds at the finish line.
Along one of the race's longest straightaways, on Hillsborough Street, runners stopped to dance to the 80s tunes of Greenville-based cover band @Risk.
Lead singer Don Parkerson said it was impossible to resist the one-of-a-kind gig.
"We're usually going to sleep around this time," he said before his band hit the stage just before 8 a.m.
Wakefield High School's marching band opened for @Risk, providing a percussive beat for runners to set pound the pavement.
Thousands lined downtown neighborhood sidewalks and overpasses to cheer the runners. University students from Shaw and North Carolina State got up early to make signs and provide encouragement. In Historic Oakwood and outside the North Carolina Museum of History, race fans donned costumes to get in the spirit.
Members of NC State honor society Gamma Beta Phi were glad to lend their support to runners of all paces.
"There have been people flying through this race," said Kirsten Ioos.
The winner of the men's marathon, Ben Ludovici of Syracuse, found himself in a tight race throughout the course against first-time marathoner Michael O'Brian. The pair finished within a minute of each other and in a little bit more than 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Sophomore Julia Kempf, who hates running, enjoyed her time on the sidelines.
"Although I would never do this, it's really encouraging to see this many people do such a hard thing," she said. "They're doing a great job."
Although neither race was a sellout, about 8,000 people registered to run in this second year of the event in Raleigh.
Runners took to the streets starting at 7 a.m. on a day with almost ideal weather. The temperature at race time was in the upper 40s and climbed into the high 60s as the stragglers finished around noon under sunny skies.
"The perfect weather has certainly played a helpful role this morning," said race organizer Dan Cruz of Competitor Group.
Cruz said two men were taken to an area hospital for evaluation, but race medical staff expected that both suffered nothing more serious than dehydration or cramps.
Organizers, in tune to complaints that last year's course was too hilly, made changes to the marathon route, taking runners past WRAL Studios, around Lake Johnson and through NC State's Centennial Campus.
Although much of it was a blur, Mack praised the beauty of the route, especially a segment on the campus of the former Dorothea Dix hospital.
"If I had to have a favorite part, the view coming through Dix campus," Mack said. "It's a little bit of a hill back there, but you can see the whole of the Raleigh skyline. And the Boylan Bridge is also a good view."