April 12, 2008

Marathoners Get a Break

Easier route adopted for Sony Ericsson City of Oaks race

By Roger Van Der Horst, Staff Writer, The Raleigh News & Observer

RALEIGH - Marathoners still having nightmares -- and feeling sore -- from the hills they had to conquer last November in Raleigh got good news Friday.

Organizers have changed the course for the second annual Sony Ericsson City of Oaks Marathon and Rex Healthcare Half Marathon, to be held Sunday, Nov. 2, starting at 7 a.m.

First of all, the start and finish have been moved from Trinity Road near Carter-Finley Stadium to N.C. State's Centennial Campus, where the race will be able to handle a bigger field and more vendors. About 6,000 entrants are expected this year, spokeswoman Carolyn Micheels said, compared with about 3,800 in the inaugural event.

Organizers already have a reason to expect a bigger crowd -- they've made the course easier.

The 2007 women's winner, Gloria Kuiken-Iverson of Lincolnwood, Ill., called it the hardest marathon she had ever run. The competitors had to deal with brutal hills coming out of Umstead State Park onto Ebenezer Church Road from about the 19th mile to almost the finish line.

By reversing the direction the runners will go on Ebenezer Church Road, the organizers are ensuring that the field will hit those hills earlier in the race and take some of them running downhill instead of uphill.

"Oh, definitely, your time is going to be faster," said Micheels, who co-owns Raleigh Running Outfitters with her husband Jim, the race director. "More people will choose the City of Oaks Marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. That's one of the reasons we changed the course."

The 26.2-mile marathon course includes a run on Hillsborough Street to reach downtown Raleigh, a short loop downtown that includes a run up Fayetteville Street and a trek inside Umstead Park.

There's a combined cash purse of $23,000, and the two races will benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Rex Hospital Foundation, the Umstead Coalition and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Runners can register online at www.cityofoaksmarathon.com. All registrations are being taken online. The entry fees range from $55 to $85 for the marathon and $35 to $65 for the half-marathon, depending on when you register.

roger.vanderhorst@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4558