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Marathon: More Rock 'n' Roll than ever
Keep up with new races, swag and music

PAVEMENT, prepare to be pounded.

This weekend marks the fourth year that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon brings its signature races to town, and its organizers have upped their game with a slew of new events:

In addition to Saturday’s 26.2-mile and 13.1 courses that cover some of Savannah’s most stunning vistas—from Bay Street through Ardsley Park to the back marshes of Savannah State University—two shorter sprints have been added on Sunday, Nov. 9.

The new 5K and a 1-mile both start and finish at Daffin Park, followed by another one-mile KiDS ROCK race for the elementary school set.

Race organizers know how much its competitors love swag, and they’re luring Saturday’s champs to sign up for Sunday’s “fun runs” with a unique award: Those who complete two days of races receive a special Remix Challenge medal. The less extreme but still ambitious can aim for the Sweet Tee Challenge that also comes with its own limited edition T-shirt.

It’s all part of the plan for total Savannah domination—er, participation.

“With the new the shorter distance races on Sunday, it allows for more local residents who might not be ready for 13.1 or 26.2 miles to get involved in the this world-class event,” enjoins R ‘n’ R point man Dan Cruz, reminding that registration for Sunday’s runs will be open throughout the weekend.

A sometimes-marathoner himself, Cruz professes that 5K is his favorite race distance, “because by the time you get to mile two you only have one left!”

He also touts the 5K and one-mile as excellent post-race activities.

“Some experts say one of the best ways to recover from a marathon is to go for a quick run the day afterwards,” says Cruz.

“What could be better to loosen up those sore muscles than a little shakeout run through the park?”

A goods stretch never hurt, either. Runners’ World magazine touts the efficacy of yoga for flexibility and injury prevention, and many marathons have already incorporated it into their training routines. This year, Savannah Yoga Center will host two pre-race yoga classes for competitors during the marathon’s Health & Fitness Expo at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center (Thursday 4:30 p.m, Friday 12:30 p.m.) Instructor Hannah Lancaster will hold a post-race recovery session at SYC’s Bull Street studio Sunday at 5 p.m.

The free and open-to-the-public Health & Fitness Expo also serves as the launch pad for the race weekend. Starting Thursday afternoon, it’s here that competitors pick up their race packets and numbers as well as commune with fellow competitors.

Over 18,000 runners have registered, and Cruz strongly recommends that locals come by Thursday before the crush of out-of-towners arrives on Friday.

This is also the place to purchase a last-minute pair of compression tights or a sweat-wicking headband. Over 60 vendors will fill the Expo with all manner of fitness-related gear and support—who knows? That bag of Jelly Belly Sport Beans could make all the difference for going the distance.

Of course, at every Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon across the country, the main source of inspiration that helps runners put one foot in front of the other is the music. More than 23 local bands stationed throughout the course will serenade runners and sideline cheerleaders, and in spite of the marathon’s namesake, it’s a whole lot more than just rock ‘n’ roll:

Saturday’s race begins with gospel from the Anointed Voices Choir, followed a few blocks later with soul/funk/ska stylings of Sweet HayaH. Down by Henry and Waters streets, The Girlfriends will croon their golden oldies-but-goodies, giving up the same stage later to the folky percussive revelations of Savannah Pipes and Drums.

The Wave Slaves, Deep End and City Hotel cover surf rock, jazz and bluegrass respectively, but not to worry, purists: American Hologram, Full Circle and The Madhatters will represent with classic rock chords.

Everyone deserves a prize after the race, but even those who only break a sweat on their way to brunch get to enjoy a free show from the marathon’s main headliner, American Idol winner and Georgia native Phillip Phillips [see interview on page 18.]

The entertainment extends to Sunday’s events, too: Savannah’s Nickel Bag of Funk brings its booty-shaking jams to Daffin Park, followed by Appalachian roots rockers Cranford Hollow with a whiskey-soused sound that will shake Grayson Stadium at its foundation.

Transforming the entire town into a marathon course and concert venue requires a ballet of logistics, and organizers credit the City of Savannah, Visit Savannah and the Savannah Chatham Metro Police Dept. with clearing the path through city streets and residential areas.

“Every year we strive to improve the experience, not only for the runners but also the neighborhoods that are impacted by the event,” says Cruz.

“It’s really been the perfect storm of cooperation and communication.”

Speaking of communication, perhaps the most exciting addition to R ‘n’ R 2014 is a real-time, phone-friendly website with a map that tracks road closures and traffic snares.

So the streets have been primed, and it appears that Rock ‘n’ Roll runners of all levels and Savannah’s music lovers are ready to take their marks.The only question now is: Can you keep up?