The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon rocks — and you don’t have to be a runner to join in the party. Though the event centers on the grueling 26.2-mile run, participants and fans will feel center stage, too.
Race organizers have been planning all year to create a three-day bash celebrating the runners, the volunteers and, this year, the 30th anniversary of this iconic event.
Things get off to a running start on Friday, May 18 with a Health & Fitness Expo featuring talks by fitness experts, sales booths and plenty of food to keep runners fueled up. Speakers include nationally recognized runners and Olympic medalists and a chef from the Food Network.
On Saturday, May 19 a kids race on the lawn between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lakes Science Center will get future marathoners in shape. Everyone gets a medal just for participating.
The real competition heats up on Sunday, May 20 with the start of the main event at 7 a.m. For thousands of runners, this will be the culmination of months, even years, of training.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Carole Sullivan, former WKYC-TV 3 news anchor, who ran the race a few years ago. “I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I saw people who were floating on air, just so thrilled that they were completing this goal that seemed so insurmountable.” Sullivan was so inspired by the experience that she has returned to help with announcing duties for the event.
“This Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is one of the longest and most successful races in the country. Part of the reason is the people who support it. This city needs it,” she says.
The marathon course starts at East 13th Street and St. Clair Avenue and winds its way as far west as West 117th Street before looping around through University Circle on the East Side. Planners were careful to take advantage of Cleveland’s unique sights, like Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the lakefront, to showcase the town’s best.
Cleveland’s best will be on display in another way too — with groups of fans and volunteers in cheering sections, spread out along the course. Each group, including charities and schools, will come up with their own distinctive theme, decorate a tent and, most importantly, make as much noise as possible to encourage runners to keep up the pace.
“It’s going to create more excitement along the course. It’s tough to get people to come out that early in the morning, but this really gets spectators involved in the event,” said race director Ralph Staph.
Full marathon runners always face stiff competition for the top slots and prizes, and this year promises to be no different. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is a highly regarded event among dedicated marathoners, and thousands of them return year after year.
The wildly popular half-marathon and 10K events offer runners a lighter option to experience the course. And teams of walkers are welcome to take the whole course at a more leisurely pace.
To finish things off, Cleveland will live up to its reputation as the Rock ’n’ Roll capital with a blowout after-party at the finish line.
Live music will get tired runners moving again. The “26.3 mile” Rock Party will also include games, food and prize giveaways, so there’s plenty of action to keep everyone entertained.
Jack and Ralph Staph, the father-son team in charge of coordinating the weekend’s many events, say this race has meaning for Cleveland far beyond the sport itself.
“It’s an event that brings people to Cleveland. And we bring in $8.3 million for the weekend into the local economy. It raises all kinds of money for charity,” says executive director Jack Staph. “It’s really about community involvement. For a lot of people, it means the start of summertime, like baseball season. It’s part of a tradition.”
This year’s Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is giving local charities a run for their money. With so many opportunities to be involved in the event, Cleveland-area charity organizations are sure to be big winners.
Benefiting worthy causes has always been a high priority for race organizers. This year, Jack Staph, executive director, established the Cleveland Marathon Charities, a 501(c)(3), to better accomplish that goal.
“The race has already given more than a million to charities, and this year we’re making it easier to organize and donate,” says Staph.
As the charitable arm of the marathon, the Cleveland Marathon Charities will secure donations from the community and distribute the money to groups that provide volunteer and spectator support for the marathon like the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital among others.
With so many charitable groups getting involved this year, finding ways to raise money for these causes should be no problem. Groups like Road of Life and Lawrence School have been working for months to raise money by forming and training teams of runners for the race.
“What started as a vehicle to raise funds has developed into so much more,” says Courtney Baker, communication manager at Lawrence School. “We have had some training sessions, provided training plans, work with the kids on a weekly basis to make sure they are training responsibly, and will even enjoy some group runs this spring.” Lawrence School is raising money to start a cross-country team this coming fall.
Road of Life is an Ohio nonprofit that works to raise health awareness among children, so their involvement with the marathon was a natural choice. As the official charity of the walking division of the marathon, half-marathon and 10K, this group makes it possible for anyone — not just experienced runners — to improve their overall fitness while supporting a great cause.
Other charities getting in on the game include Team in Training, which supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Run to Remember, whose participants run in memory of a loved one they’ve lost. So there’s no limit to opportunities to make your participation in the marathon mean something more for someone in need.
The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon began a long way before the starting line, and it won’t end at the finish line, either. Organizers, sponsors and volunteers have been working all year to ensure this year’s event is a fun time for all.
Sponsors for the race span a list of local and national businesses. They include American Greetings, Coca-Cola and Saturn.
Rite Aid, which has been the title sponsor for four years, remains an integral part of the race.
“This is such a long-standing event, and although the Cleveland economy has had some tough times, this is one cornerstone of the city that has stood the test of time,” says John Learish of Rite Aid Corporation. “It’s a shining example of the dedication and heart of the people who support this event. There’s a lot of pride associated with it, and we’re just as proud to be associated with those people.”
Sponsors provide marketing, resources and volunteers to the race, along with the funds to keep it all going. According to Jack Staph, it’s a win-win partnership, both for the sponsors and the race.
This year, an exciting addition to the list of sponsors is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
As an institution so integral to Cleveland’s identity, the Rock Hall was a natural partner of one of the city’s most popular events. The Rock Hall will have discounted tickets available for runners, giving out-of-town visitors a chance to experience a must-see Cleveland hotspot. And they’ll have a water stop and cheering section near the Rock Hall, complete with Rock ’n’ Roll-themed costumes and decorations to get runners and spectators pumped up.
“We’re fortunate to have such great sponsors,” said Jack Staph. “They’re interested in the success of the race, which touches so many parts of the community. It’s a complete partnership.”
With everything going on at this year’s Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, there’s no end to the possibilities for those looking to be part of the race. Whether you’re a dedicated runner with your sights set on beating out the competition or an energetic cheerleader looking to shout from the sidelines, there’s something for everyone.
Sign up at www.clevelandmarathon.com
to reserve yourself a spot in the race. Don’t miss the expo on Friday and Saturday, and the post-race party on Sunday, to reward your hard work and training.
Organize a group to run or walk the full course or one of the shorter options. A group can provide the moral support and mutual encouragement to keep going.
Get involved with one of the groups sponsoring a cheering section along the scenic course. Then start training your lungs — cheering a marathon is all about endurance.
Support your favorite charity by donating money, or run on a group’s behalf and ask your friends for donations to support you. See the marathon Web site for a list of organizations involved in this year’s event.
Volunteer to work at any or all of the weekend’s events. Enthusiastic race fans are needed to help out at the expo, register runners, and help everything go smoothly the day of the race. Call (216) 464-5510 to find out how you can help out.