In ancient Greece, in the 5th century B.C., long before the invention of electronic communications, news traveled by word of mouth and by foot. The more fleet the feet, the faster the news traveled. So, when the Greek army defeated an invading Persian force at the Battle of Marathon, a swift runner was dispatched to the capital at Athens to announce the good news.
The distance this messenger of glad tidings ran is variously estimated to have been between 24 and 26½ miles. When the Olympic Games originated in Athens in 1896, a long-distance running competition was among the major components of the international sporting event. It was named after the famous battle where the ancient messenger began his long, arduous journey.
Today’s marathons are 26 miles, 385 yards (42.195 kilometers) in distance. Of the more than 800 marathons run annually – from the frozen icecaps of Greenland to the dizzying heights of Himalayan Tibet – few are more famous (and fun!) than the annual Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. It is held in New Orleans in late winter when the weather is cooler than at most times of the year. Thousands of runners from all over the world – especially Kenya, home of many of the world’s leading marathon recordholders – are drawn to the Crescent City for its flat, less challenging terrain and its genial hospitality which fetes the runners as the celebrities and champions that all of them are.
The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon course offers runners a virtual guided tour of the most historic and scenic high points of New Orleans. Starting and finishing outside the storied Louisiana Superdome on Poydras Street, the course takes in the French Quarter and lively Bourbon Street, scenic and majestic St. Charles Avenue, the stately Garden District and two of the finest urban green spaces in the nation – Audubon Park and City Park.
The basically unchallenging course makes it walker-friendly, and the race is open to walkers as well as runners. Sponsored by the New Orleans Track Club, the marathon also offers a “half-marathon” and a 5-K race for those unable to go the full distance. Coinciding with the marathon is an educational and informative Fitness Expo at the New Orleans Hilton Hotel.
All along the course, at evenly spaced intervals, are fluid replacement stations where race participants can freshen up. Emergency medical units are also stationed along the route in case they are needed. In typical New Orleans spirit, bandstands are set up on the route and live music greets the ears of those racing past. And, of course, a gala New Orleans-style blowout awaits all at the Superdome finish line, with more live music, food and beverages -- as well as first aid, for those whose feet may need a little TLC.
Winners receive awards in the following categories:
Overall: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Male and Female
Masters, Grandmasters, and Seniors: 1st Male and Female
Age Groups: 1st, 2nd, 3rd place in divisions 19-Under through 75-Over in five year increments, Male and Female
Racewalkers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Overall Male and Female
All finishers – walkers as well as runners – receive custom medallions commemorating their achievement.