How the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series Works

By: Julia Layton
Person playing drum in capital city outdoors.
A whole herd of Elvis Presleys leads the start of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
AP Photo/Denis Poroy

Peak physical fitness is not, perhaps, a natural component of the "rock 'n' roll lifestyle" -- at least not the stereotypical one. On the one hand, you have protein shakes and training runs; on the other, all-nighters and beer runs.

In fact, the two are not so far apart. They're actually perfect together, according to the folks behind the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series. To them, running 26.2 miles and partying are not mutually exclusive activities.


Rock 'n' Roll Marathons are held in 16 locations around the United States, and it's exactly what it sounds like: a running event and a concert wrapped in one. The idea is, why not combine two blood-pumping, fist-pumping activities into a single, massive, sweaty, weekend-long party? Runners and walkers are treated to music on the way to the finish line and a huge musical blow-out at the end of the event.

In this article, we'll check out six of the most popular Rock 'n' Roll Marathons, those taking place in San Antonio, Chicago, Arizona, Seattle, Las Vegas and San Diego, and find out what they have to offer. We'll see what the race is like and how you can get in on the action.

First up, the marathon (and half marathon!) in sunny San Diego.


San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

Go-go dancers get ready to go-go near the starting line of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
Go-go dancers get ready to go-go near the starting line of the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
AP Photo/Denis Poroy

When: June 5, 2011

Where: San Diego, Calif.


More Info: San Diego Rock 'n' Roll

Making a Vacation of It: San Diego Tourism

A flat course, clear-blue sky and thousands of cheering fans (there are actual cheering squads in addition to spectators) make the San Diego event a great marathon, and 30 music stages along the route make it a great party. It's like running through a music festival, with new live music at every mile along the trek.

In the past, big names like Seal, Chris Isaak, Pat Benatar and Chicago have played the final concert at the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, and the music is included in the price of race entry. The official charity partner is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Live music and great weather, averaging about 65 degrees Fahrenheit on a summer morning, complement a run through beautiful San Diego that welcomes all levels of athlete: There's a half marathon and a relay available for those not up to the full distance, and a Kids Rock race is open to the little ones.

And never forget it's a party: Every adult finisher gets a free beer at the finish.

Up next: Las Vegas…


Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

When: Dec. 5, 2010

Where: Las Vegas, Nev.


More Info: Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll

Making a Vacation of It: Las Vegas Tourism

Live music along the Strip and a Vegas-style post-run party make the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon a standout event. Both a full marathon and a half marathon are available, along with a Kids Rock 1-mile run. A pre-race, half-marathon training program benefits the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.

Winter weather is in the brisk 50s in the desert -- perfect for a long run.

No matter the distance, fans can keep abreast of the situation whether they're in Sin City or not: Runner tracking via text message lets everyone check their favorite athlete's progress along the route, and Web-based updates are posted at several points during the race.

There's a free beer waiting for each of-age finisher, and then the real party begins. Admission is free to both marathoners and spectators, and the 2011 after-party features Bret Michaels, of Poison fame.

Up next: Seattle…


Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

When: June 25, 2011

Where: Seattle, Wash.


More Info: Seattle Rock 'n' Roll

Making a Vacation of It: Seattle Tourism

Grunge City is famous for its music. It's also No. 4 on the 2010 Forbes list of Fittest Cities. It's a natural fit for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, and summer in the U.S. Northwest is the perfect time to run: The average day is rainless and about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

The party starts with the marathon or half marathon, with live music at every mile featuring local Seattle bands. Cheer squads make some noise alongside spectators, and the post-race concert is free. Tonic headlines the major bash in 2011. You can check out the music at the official Web site.

To top off the fun, runners with the fastest marathon times can qualify to win some money.

Up next: Arizona…


Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

Winner Terefae Yae glances behind the finish line after completing the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
Winner Terefae Yae glances behind the finish line after completing the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

When: Jan. 16, 2011

Where: Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe, Ariz.


More Info: Arizona Rock 'n' Roll

Making a Vacation of It: Arizona Tourism

High desert makes for a great marathon setting: It's dry enough to keep the sweat from dripping into your eyes and chilly enough to keep you cool -- between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, typically.

The tri-city Arizona Rock 'n' Roll Marathon features dozens of dedicated cheering squads, local bands along the scenic course and a full Kids Rock event for the fitness-minded youngsters. The delightfully flat, scenic route runs through three cities: Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe, hitting each spot whether you're running (or walking) the full marathon or the half marathon.

Arizona's race has two charity partners, the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Up next: Chicago…


Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Runners line up at the start for the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.
Runners line up at the start for the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

When: Aug. 21, 2011

Where: Chicago, Ill.


More Info: Chicago Rock 'n' Roll

Making a Vacation of It: Chicago Tourism

Chicago's Rock 'n' Roll half marathon offers great sightseeing, winding past landmarks like Soldier Field and the Chicago Theater. It draws more than 20,000 people -- some runners, some walkers, some spectators. Whether cheering or racing, all get to enjoy the local music of the Windy City. A couple of dozen different bands along the route, including Party Freak, M&R Rush, and the Chicago Mob Dixieland Jazz Band, in 2011, play the marathon concert.

There's a 3.5-hour time limit, but slower runners and walkers can catch a ride part of the way so they can finish -- and take home the commemorative medal.

Admission to the big concert is free, and the race benefits the American Cancer Society.

Up next: San Antonio…


San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

When: Nov. 14, 2010

Where: San Antonio, Texas


More Info: San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll

Making a Vacation of It: San Antonio Tourism

In 2010, the starting point for San Antonio's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is the Alamo. It's a first.

There are high school cheerleaders and 26 bands flanking the course, one for each marathon mile. It's billed as a "walker-friendly" race, and if the shorter, half-marathon is still a bit much, there's a two-person relay option, too. A Kids Rock "race" (it's untimed) takes place the day before the main event.

The course winds through areas of old, historic San Antonio and offers runners and spectators a close-up, run-by look at Victorian architecture and Spanish Colonial missions. And all the while, the streets are one big, varied concert topped off by the main event -- the Finish Line Fiesta.

San Antonio's marathon benefits the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series is big, and this is just a sampling of its race locations. Others include Dallas, Nashville, Providence, Virginia Beach, San Jose, Philadelphia, Denver, Los Angeles, Savannah and New Orleans. To find out about an event near you and see the music line-ups, check out the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

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