The model of a race run mostly on the American Tobacco Trail with all proceeds going to local charities has been highly successful for the Tobacco Road Marathon. It’s the largest marathon in the state, and was run for the eighth time Sunday.
When a fall version of that model — the RDC Marathon — makes its inaugural run Nov. 12, it may also make a little history because it’s believed to be the first Durham marathon in decades, or possibly the first one in the city’s history.
The race, which is a week after the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and the same day as the Outer Banks Marathon, starts and finishes at The Streets at Southpoint mall
“We are extremely excited about this race and what this unique venue offers both racers and spectators,” said Jason Biggs, the race’s organizer and FS Series co-owner. “We wanted this to be a destination race, and this venue allows participants to enjoy the best of the Triangle area prior to Sunday’s events.”
It gives the Triangle runners another chance to pick a marathon run by local people instead of a national company from outside of the state. Instead of making money for a company in San Diego, as with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon, run by Competitor Group Inc., a good cause will benefit.
The marathon’s proceeds will go to the Team Drea Foundation, which was started by Andrea Peet, a runner who has was diagnosed with ALS in 2014. The foundation has no paid staff and aims to donate the maximum amount of funds to ALS research.
“Being diagnosed with ALS at age 33 and told you only have two to five years to live puts things into perspective real quick,” said Peet, who completed five triathlons before her diagnosis. “I pledged to spend my remaining time raising money for research and spreading awareness about this awful disease that leaves people paralyzed and unable to eat or breathe. Health permitting, I’ll be out there taking on the RDC Marathon with you on my recumbent trike!”
Also involved in the RDC Marathon will be former N.C. State baseball player Chris Combs, who was diagnosed with ALS in May.
When runners register for the race, they will be given an opportunity to make a donation to the Team Drea Foundation or Team Chris Combs.
Rock ’n’ Roll Raleigh has set up a fundraising model that gives runners entry for $25 if they raise at least $700 for the ALS Association’s North Carolina chapter, but the race doesn’t donate any money directly to the association.
The RDC Marathon, like TRM, includes a companion half-marathon, with the majority of both races run on the ATT. Registration opened on its website on Monday. For the first year, the half-marathon will be capped at 1,000 runners and the marathon at 500 runners.
“They didn’t want any more than that the first year,” Biggs said of mall management. “They wanted to just make sure that everything ran smoothly and it wasn’t crowded or crazy or anything like that.”
The FS Series owns RDC and other races, including the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon in Raleigh, and performs timing services and event production for many races.
Biggs and his FS Series colleagues, Brent Dorenkamp and Marc Primanti, set up the first TRM course. Biggs is a former N.C. State punter and Primanti was a Wolfpack place-kicker who earned the Lou Groza Award in 1996.
“We kind of designed everything and set everything up,” Biggs said of the TRM course. “I did a lot of the designing and infrastructure of planning with the city of Cary.”
FS Series, as always, handled the timing for Sunday’s Tobacco Road Marathon, which donates 100 percent of its proceeds to charity. The TRM is donating a record $130,000 to charities after last weekend’s race for a total of $761,000 over the race’s history.
“I think there’s gonna be a good synergy, too,” Biggs said. “I think with us being involved in Tobacco Road, I think we’ll be able to use our collective races. What we’re trying to do is bring more people from out of the area to come into town and hang out and see the location. I think that’s where both of our goals are. With that concept in place, hopefully, we can help each other.”
His experience setting up a course along the ATT helped him set up the RDC races, which cover beautiful parts of the trail in Durham County.
Because both the marathon and half-marathon start at the same time, the first two miles of the course go around the mall before running on the bridge over I-40 and going north toward downtown Durham on the ATT. That will give the field time to stretch out before entering the trail.
The race course turns around past Fayetteville Road and before Otis Street. That part of the course will need alterations before race day, though, because of road and trail construction near Fayetteville and Cornwallis roads.
The race then goes back to Southpoint, where the half-marathoners will finish. The marathoners continue south on the ATT. After the final turnaround past Pittard Sears Road and before New Hope Church Road, they go back to Southpoint for their finish. Much of the trail before the last turnaround also is part of the TRM course.
As for the name — which stands for Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill — Biggs initially wanted to use DRC. After finding out that the initialism is trademarked, he switched to RDC.
Biggs selected Durham for the location of his race after being unable to get a permit for a race in five districts of downtown Raleigh — Glenwood South, Capital, Warehouse, Fayetteville Street and Moore Square — because of a moratorium on new races there.
“We had been working on a few things for a couple of years, looking at some different venues for some events,” Biggs says of downtown Raleigh. “So we were looking to get something done there but we just couldn’t because of the moratorium.”
He eventually decided to stage the race in Durham because a friend helps manage the mall. There have been other road races run at Southpoint, including 5Ks on Father’s Day and Thanksgiving Day.
In addition to offering much more parking than is available at most marathon venues, it provides an interesting place for the finish-line festival in the courtyard area in front of the theaters.
“It definitely brings a different feel and a different vibe to the event,” Biggs said. “Especially that mall with its open airness, and it’s a pretty cool place to go and a lot of things to do there.”
“We think that’s pretty cool,” Biggs said. “I just know that doing these races for such a long time that people, when they come to town, they’re always looking for things to do. Always asking. So we worked with a couple of companies to have tours set up for people already when people come in, if they want to go on them, they can pay. One or two on Friday, a couple on Saturday and a couple on Sunday.”
The addition gives the Triangle five marathons and North Carolina 31.