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Despite Date and Course Changes, Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Lives On

A visit by Pope Francis caused scrambling by Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia organizers.

2015 Philadelphia Course Announced for Halloween Date

Late last year, Pope Francis announced that he’d be visiting the city of Philadelphia in September of this year. For millions of his fans on the East Coast, this was welcome news. But for Philadelphia runners, the timing of the pontiff’s visit couldn’t have been less convenient as the date conflicted with the American Association for Cancer Research Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon.

Thanks to the Herculean efforts of the City of Philadelphia as well as the organizers of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, this iconic race that dates back to 1978 will take place this year—specifically on Halloween, October 31.

“It was easy for them [the City of Philadelphia] to say no,” says Alan Culpepper, the Vice President of Government Relations for Rock ‘n’ Roll. “But they didn’t and we’re really thankful to the city for recognizing the significance that this event holds and for working with us along the way.”

Culpepper, a retired two-time American Olympian, was referring to the massive logistical hurdle that was required to alter the race. Not surprisingly, large American cities can’t just simply swap out major events. And since the race will be held on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, Culpepper said this meant having to alter the traditional course to accommodate downtown businesses. Specifically, runners will now head down Spring Garden Street for a turnaround at mile 4.

Though admittedly not the most scenic of roads, Culpepper indicated that the course still has the best elements of this storied race, like the start and finish in front of the Art Museum and the beautiful fall foliage along the Schuylkill River.

RELATED: Photos: 2014 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia

“We always had a goal to keep the historic course as preserved as possible,” Culpepper admits. “That was a challenge. But it was also a challenge to line up the Convention Center space and the hotel availability. It was a matter of getting all this to line up on a weekend where the city didn’t have another existing event. It was a challenge and it took a lot of work.”

Culpepper says that while the alteration of the course in mile 4 is a bit of a setback, there are still more positives than negatives.

“You do lose some of some of the aesthetics,” he says, “but we managed to keep the race downtown and keep it flat and fast. We did what we could given that we had to work with the city in terms of traffic and other logistics, because we wanted to be a good partner.”

Regarding the turnaround itself, Culpepper says that concerned runners should know that it’s going to be wide.

“It’s a divided median on a four-lane road,” he contends. “This won’t be like doing a hairpin turn on a single lane. You have plenty of space to make a nice wide turn. Also, by doing this out-and-back, we’ve actually eliminated multiple turns, which means there will be less turns than we’ve had in the past. And that’s a good thing.”

Tens of thousands of runners, surely many more in costume than in years past, are planning to toe the famous starting line at Eakin’s Oval in the 38th edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Saturday, October 31. And despite the changes this year, one thing will remain the same: the majesty of this monumental race.

“This event means a lot to so many people and we want to make sure we’re putting in the work to give runners a fast, beautiful, and fun course,” Culpepper says.