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Topic of the week: Trapped inside a marathon?

Two days and one big snowstorm ago, DC hosted the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. It was one of many events that have shut down city streets. But are DC residents bearing more of a burden than necessary for these events? NBC's Tom Sherwood passed along a letter to Councilmember Tommy Wells from a resident who has had enough of these events:


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
I would appreciate if you or one of your staff members could provide me with information on how I can access I-295 Southbound, or Pennsylvania Avenue West, around 7:30am this Saturday morning? I live at [the 1800 block of C Street SE], and the last time one of these Saturday Running Events occurred, I went to do laundry (which took about 90 minutes), and it took me almost two hours to get back home after doing my laundryeven though the laundry matt is only about 10 minutes from my house!!!! ...
Another point not mentioned in the attached information is that our DC Government should not try and compare itself to City's like New York, or Chicago, because those City's have massive public transportation systems that are far greater than what exists in DC, especially their subway systems. Accordingly, marathons in places like New York or Chicago can be accommodated in a manner that does not place a substantial number of City residents on "Lock-Down" when these events occur.
Tom Sherwood wrote, "I am all for healthy public events held in the city, but the writer [of the letter] raises an issue I occasionally have discussedhow can the city inconvenience thousands of citizens for half-days and more over such a wide area?"

Our contributors respond:

David Cranor: To answer Tom's original question, "How can the city inconvenience thousands of citizens for half-days and more over such a wide area?" That's easy, by closing a lot of streets.

But seriously, I take Tom's question to be why would the city do this. And there are several benefits that offset the costs.

  1. Tourism. A lot of these runners come from outside of DC and they come in for the day and stay for brunch or lunch. Or they even get a hotel, etc. It brings something to the economy.
  2. Amenities. One thing a city does is try to give its citizenry opportunities to take part in interesting/fun/exciting events. The marathon qualifies. Having a marathon in town is much more convenient than having to travel somewhere else. You don't even have to run in it to enjoy it. Lots of people pull lawn chairs out and sit in their yard to watch the runners go by. Or, with the Rock N' Roll marathon they can go and listen to the bands along the route (we did this a couple of years ago).
  3. Overtime pay for police officers/other employment. Police officers have to staff these events and that's paid for by the event organizers, as are other employees they need to hire. Not only does this put extra money into the local economy, but it's not a bad idea for an employer (the city) to look out for its employees and help them to make extra money when opportunities present themselvesfor morale. It's a pay raise that the city doesn't have to pay for.
  4. Fees. I know there are some. I don't know how much they cost.
  5. Charity. Some races raise money for good causes
  6. Health. There are likely some positive externalities from hosting a race that encourages more people to exercise and boosts public health (if only a little bit).
So I'm not sure what those benefits are worth, or what the total cost in inconvenience is, but the answer to Tom's question is that the city thinks the former exceeds the latter.

Matt Johnson: The Rock 'n' Roll Marathon website ... has a map of the racecourse and road closures. [The original letter writer] lives at 18th and C Southeast. He wants to know how he can get on I-295 southbound or Pennsylvania Avenue west.

That's easy. For getting on I-295, he doesn't even have to cross the racecourse. South on 18th. Potomac Ave to Eye Street. Left on 11th. Get on 11th Street Bridge. Get on I-295 south.

For Pennsylvania Avenue West (how far west?), he can take Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to the Capitol without crossing the racecourse. For the section between the Capitol and the White House, he should get on I-395 and use the tunnel under the Mall. The same goes for getting to the section of Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to Georgetown.

Topher Mathews: This is an issue that has come up repeatedly in Georgetown. One point the ANC now makes is that if the event is not substantially charitable in nature, they will object to it. They also work very closely with the race organizers to minimize the impact, etc.

I think a balance is important, but I also don't agree when people equate "I can't get my car out" with "being forcibly stuck in my house."

Canaan Merchant: I'm interested in several things.

  • I usually see announcements via the web (DDOT, GGW, DCist etc.). That could be an issue for someone not as connected as I am. There may be a dissemination issue to go over.
  • There seems to be real money to be made from all these races. I see different ones advertised all. The. Time. They've even started making obstacle courses and "zombie runs" a thing. Nominally, proceeds go to charity but the cynic in me says that races wouldn't be nearly as prevalent if there wasn't serious money to be made.
  • The "Rock 'n' Roll" marathon is happening in at least a dozen cities; this is a real franchise.
  • This Post story highlights that this route goes through a lot more neighborhoods than other races which stick to the Mall area and down on the parkways between Crystal City and Rosslyn. That's the issue the original writer is concerned about.

    So there is definitely room to ask about the outreach to neighborhoods on these events and whether communication could be improved. But one positive is that this may be the first time a lot of people ever really explore Capitol Hill and other urban neighborhoods. That may be a positive overall. Sure, people trying to really race may have their mind on other things but a race like this works better in DC than in Fairfax where it's not practical to close an arterial.

  • If they're going to have "Rock 'n' Roll Marathon" and NOT play rock bands that are famous to DC (Dag Nasty, Fugazi, Dismemberment plan, or call it the Go-Go marathon!) then that's kind of annoying to me. They really had to go to Seattle to find a suitable band to play at the end of the race? (apologies to any fans of the Head and the Heart).
It may be worth it to talk about if there is a need to have a special road race transportation/neighborhood plan. Marathons and other races are super popular and they aren't going away, much like sports stadiums they can be a positive for the city's image but a drain on actual resources. Maybe a more a broader and more holistic approach to them is necessary.

Edward Russell: I disagree with a lot of the points the author of the original email makes. First, has he ever been stuck between the NY marathon on 1st Ave and 5th Ave, and need to get the west side? Sure, you COULD take the subway down to 42nd go to Times Square and then back up, but would you? Probably not.

Road races are a necessary public event in any city, regardless of size.

And I'm sorry, your laundry does not take precedent over an event thousands of people have trained for and are looking forward tonot to mention that has been planned and disclosed for months ahead of time.

DDOT has had digital message board advertising the race on 395 and other major highways coming into DC for more than a week nowif you're a driver in DC, it'd be hard to not know there will be road closures and you can plan around them. The city has definitely done its job letting people know of the closures on Saturday.

Steven Yates: Given where I live, events that close down roads often inconvenience me. In fact, this one will go right outside of my apartment. But it's really not more than an inconvenience for me. It might disrupt my bus route, which means I might have to leave a little earlier or walk to the Metro. I've sort of come to accept this as part of city living. Though I imagine if I had a car I'd find these a bit more of a disruption.

To answer your outreach question, Canaan, I think last year for this particular race I received a flyer on my door outlining the route (since, again, I live near the route) several weeks before the event. This year, I think I first saw it via email (or somehow knew it was happening). Signs announcing the road closings just went up a few days before the event. But often for events that close streets farther away from me (but still affect me) I don't find out until I get an email, usually either from WMATA or DDOT.

Veronica O. Davis: To bring a different perspective, the portion through Ward 7 is the last leg of the race. Basically, it means that the roads are closed on this side of town until 1:00 pm. The community has asked the marathon several times if the race could be run in the opposite direction every other year, so that this side of town could get some relief earlier in the day. The race organizers stated they have to re-open downtown first.

The Twining neighborhood is effectively trapped. They are the small neighborhood between 295 and Minnesota Ave. Over the years MPD has tried to be helpful in letting residents out of the neighborhood, by "slowing the race."

The other major issue is that Ward 7 is a bus-dependent community. Shut down the buses and it basically shuts down accessibility and mobility. We've tried to work with WMATA on bus routing. However, Minnesota Ave is one of the two major north to south bus routes. With the race on Minnesota Ave, a sizable population loses access to everything.

Sure it's only a half a day of inconvenience. However, some people to get to work, doctor's appointments, etc.

Payton Chung: These event closures, and recent complaints about diplomatic road closures, offer yet another example of why street connectivity matters. A dense network of streets offers more routes through, even when some of the streets have been closed.

Granted, Ward 7 has topography that makes it difficult for streets to run through. In other instances, like in my (and Tom Sherwood's) neighborhood in Southwest, the lack of connectivity is entirely self-imposed. We live literally on a cul-de-sac, within a neighborhood that is effectively a cul-de-sac, and even though many of the through streets still exist in practice there's great resistance to letting others trespass across what's now private property.

Hopefully, the opening of a continuous trail network along the Anacostia will open up new routes for future road races. I know that some informally organized (ahem) cyclists take advantage of the road closures and ride the route. Maybe this is a starting point for a proper Open Streets event.

Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

Comments

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A major issue is poor communication and people not paying attention (as Canaan Merchant mentioned). A real problem is that the general signage is designed to look more promotional (this street will be on the Rock and Roll Marathon Route) and people don't make the connection that it is a street closing notice at the same time. The road closure statement should be at the top and bottom of the sign, etc.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/13225424024/ p particulars

2. They should provide better maps and information about street closing particulars on signage posted on the streets as well, rather than exclusively directing people to websites.

3. Clearly, there is limited if any training for the cops and volunteers wrt alternate routes on the day of the event. That's the biggest thing. Because there are ways out. But people don't know what they are. And they can't get good information from the people on the route.

... I know that when I dealt with this issue with the Special Events committee that decides about street closures, when I worked in Brookland Main Street for a street festival, that we weren't required to come up with signage about alternate routes and such. The only requirement was posting the street closure notices.

The city should rethink this, provide a template for communicating more information about this, in advance of the events.

4. But yes, for all the reasons that David C. outlines, it's good to do these kinds of events.

by Richard Layman on Mar 17, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

I don't know about other neighborhoods but ours received individual fliers warning us that streets would be closed about three weeks before the event. I would have thought the letter writer received the same.

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by lou on Mar 17, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

I also don't agree when people equate "I can't get my car out" with "being forcibly stuck in my house."

This is the sort of comment that drives me nuts. If I can't get my car out on a Saturday, then I am being forcibly stuck in my house because I do things that are beyond the reach of transit. I abhor people dictating that sort of thing to me. That's the kind of comment that makes no friends.

by Another Nick on Mar 17, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

Laundry Matt?

by NFA on Mar 17, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

Everything Richard Layman said.

The information is inadequate. There are maps of the course, but none of them mark where you can get through the course. There is no publicity about alternate routes out. I live three blocks from the course in Adams Morgan and walk everywhere, and I saw zero signs about the street closures.

It didn't personally inconvenience me, but if I lived in SE DC and the streets were closed until 1 or 2 instead of 10:30? A much bigger inconvenience.

You can do bulk mailings of a flyer with information to every house in DC. That is a start.

by MLD on Mar 17, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

@Another Nick

But the thing is, if you plan ahead you aren't forcibly stuck in your house. The marathon route passed two blocks from my house on two sides and I wanted to go somewhere on the other side of the route. So I parked my car on the other side of the route and walked across the stream of runners when there was a lull. This may not be doable for everyone everywhere, but as others have mentioned there are other options. The main issue, I think, is that some people are either uninformed about what is going on or refuse to accept that they might need to change the routine they use on the other 51 Saturdays of the year. For the letter writer, I guarantee that there are other laundromats which do not require crossing the marathon route. Just because you might not be able to drive to your favorite laundromat on Saturday morning doesn't mean that your life is unbelievably inconvenienced. Remove any of those three variables and it can be done.

by Ampersand on Mar 17, 2014 3:22 pm • linkreport

"Road races are a necessary public event in any city, regardless of size."

No, they are not. Desirable, perhaps. Necessary, no.

by jimble on Mar 17, 2014 3:32 pm • linkreport

Being stuck at home for half a day is a hassle, but I watched the race and it was inspiring. I can live with it. Better notice and planning would help. Our part of the city has a lot of road closures already due to infrastructure work, so the race probably should have been rerouted this year.

by eastof9 on Mar 17, 2014 3:38 pm • linkreport

I agree that the Rock'n'Roll marathon is particularly disruptive. Why can't it be on Sunday so that fewer people are inconvenienced? I had to skip my yoga class, since I did not want to walk from 14th and Fairmont, where the Circulator stopped, to Woodley Park.

by Purrsey on Mar 17, 2014 3:53 pm • linkreport

I live in Adams Morgan one block from the marathon route, and I had to cross at Columbia Road/Adams Mill during a busy marathon period. There were others trying to do so as well. The road was surprisingly thick with runners. An ideal spot seemed to be at the intersection of Columbia, where the McDonald's is. The spread of runners narrowed to about half the roadway as the made the turn to Columbia Heights. After a little wait for an opening, I was able to sprint across and continue. None of the volunteers or police were assisting.

For me, personally, navigating this was no big deal. But honestly, when I got returned home at about 11 a.m. I was super happy to see the streets clear of runners, buses moving, and life fully normal.

I'm trying not be a curmudgeon about it, and will say that for me, the R&R Marathon was a very, very minor disruption. The marathon does raise money for charity and does offer some economic benefit.

But this is a big complex city, and I'm only writing for myself. I'm sure there others who needed to use vehicles, buses, metro, for matters of importance. These folks were clearly disrupted.

Honestly, I would not miss the R&R Marathon. Not one bit. It really seems ill-suited for a heavily residential neighborhood.

by kob on Mar 17, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

Does the Marine Corps Marathon get as many complaints as the Rock & Roll Marathon? If not, is it fair to compare the two?

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Mar 17, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

The MCM course (slightly different than the old course) spends a lot of time in Virginia.

http://media.dev-cms.com/wtop/30/3044/304442.jpg

It does, however, stick to parks and places with natural grade separation to avoid impact on surface streets. The part along the Mall keeps 9th and 12th open underneath; however, it also requires major closures on area bridges and highways (Rock Creek Parkway, GW Parkway, 14th Street Bridge, etc).

by Alex B. on Mar 17, 2014 4:42 pm • linkreport

I take issue with one of the original letter-writer's claims:

"Another point not mentioned in the attached information is that our DC Government should not try and compare itself to City's like New York, or Chicago, because those City's have massive public transportation systems that are far greater than what exists in DC, especially their subway systems"

DC's subway system is actually more extensive than Chicago's.

by alurin on Mar 17, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

I would be interested to know what the net financial benefit to the city is.

I have been inconvenienced by the parade the past few years, I used to live in hill east, and this year we had to move last Saturday. I was moving from outside the course to inside, luckily the U Haul place called us to ask if we could pick up the truck the night before, because otherwise I honestly saw nothing about it until a few days before, after we had made all the moving arrangements so we would have been screwed.

But as this shows, there are ways around it (Early pick up for the truck, moving between zones just after the race ended), but I think a slightly more advanced warning would be helpful.

by Michelle on Mar 17, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

I was surprised to find the marathon outside my door on Saturday morning, having only vaguely noticed the announcements. It was a little loud, kind of fun, slightly inconvenient, and seemed a natural-enough part of urban life.

The wonderful part about Saturday morning, though, was the lack of cars. Between the closed off roads, and people realizing that this particular morning was a bad time for car-dependent errands, it was a lovely, quiet walk, and everyone on the street seemed extra-friendly.

It also got me thinking about transit routes -- I could have taken Metro to get underground, and therefore across the route. Streetcars (once we finally have them) wouldn't have the same advantage. But the path of the race could be selected so that street car routes would be free and clear. We could even have a policy on those streets of street-cars only for race mornings (since otherwise, car drivers would flock to the routes they knew they could use). The street cars would run extra fast without other traffic, Metro would still work, most people could get around really easily despite the race closures; and we could all get a little taste of what a more transit-intensive city would be like.

by Shalom on Mar 17, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

Road races are a necessary public event in any city, regardless of size.

That's a bit over the top. Races are amenities, not needs. Now, I believe that providing amenities is a legitimate role of government. Things like libraries, rec centers and parks are pretty non-controversial. Where there becomes room for debate is when you get amenities that a) have the potential for significant negative impact on non-participants and b) involve the potential for significant private financial benefit. It's entirely legitimate to have a conversation about minimizing the impact, and finding ways to have those who benefit bear the burden.

At least races aren't as bad as sports stadiums, which hit the trifecta of negative impact on others, significant financial gains for private interests, plus substantial public costs!

by contrarian on Mar 17, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

@alurin

Wait, what? Metro is 4 miles longer than the El, not sure I'd call that "more extensive." Not to mention it has 60 more stations and 3 more lines.

by JDS32 on Mar 17, 2014 5:55 pm • linkreport

I made the most of it by running 10 miles of the course, starting near my house at mile 12. It was great, I didn't have to worry about traffic lights or cars since 30,000 others had paid to close the roads. Best part about running the course bandit, I didn't have to leave my house before dawn, or pickup a packet the day before. The Septagenarians who normally pass me in a road race were already well ahead when I started, saving me some shame, and when I'd had enough I just went back home. Also while Saturday's weather was great, you can't count on it this season, and since most DC races sell out six months in advance, running bandit lets you make the call based on conditions. And let's face it, the start of a 30,000 runner event isn't fun for anyone.

I highly recommend running bandit if you live on part of the course.

by Will H on Mar 17, 2014 7:21 pm • linkreport

Totally agree with Richard Layman. We were prepared because we love the marathon - it goes right past our house and the whole block comes out to watch. The kids keep asking if we can watch another race next weekend. But if I hadn't been paying attention, I probably would have missed it.

by Jon Renaut on Mar 17, 2014 7:34 pm • linkreport

Chicago's subway system has more redundancy and is complemented by a denser more redundant set of bus lines than DC. I lived there and used it daily and not just on the North Side.

The Rock-n-Roll Marathon seems like the silliest and it's the most obviously corporate. DC has no organic tie to rock music. Even the Marine Corps Marathon is ridiculous--it's a very expensive, high overhead way to raise money. I can't think of any good justification for any of these. If they're such a great idea, let them move to the suburbs and snarl their thoroughfares.

by Rich on Mar 17, 2014 8:52 pm • linkreport

I am going to side with the curmudgeons.

The city seems to have no hesitation in closing off major arterials not for just marathons, but every time there is a protest, a VIP passes through, an important meeting, etc. They shut down RCP twice a day, typically at rush hour for the VP. Even for non security reasons the MPD seems unconcerned about people getting around, eg. you see backups on 16th St for 2 miles because the MPD decided to look at the speed camera near Carter Barron during rush hour.

The solution does not have to be to stop all these events: merely be a little more considerate. e.g Providing notice to residents by flyers, clear posting of alternative routing to visitors.

As for the balance of benefits to the city, I'd argue that occassional marathons are probably less beneficial than having a vibrant residential downtown. For them the city is not just a series of monuments and government buildings.

by SJE on Mar 17, 2014 9:03 pm • linkreport

I live in Columbia Heights, and am trapped in my neighborhood every year by the marathon. I used to be a runner, a triathlete, so I understand the appeal. But my races were downtown, on the Mall. People could choose to participate in the event, or stay away. I have to plan my entire day around being stuck in the center of this marathon. I heard many grumbles at the playground last weekend of families caught by surprise. I must make elaborate plans to get to work, childcare, and basic errands. We should move the event back to the Mall where it belongs.

by Columbia heights mom on Mar 17, 2014 9:35 pm • linkreport

I love this town, but complaining so vociferously about an annual marathon is typical of the type-A, tightly-wound stereotype our citizenry is often labeled with. I've spent the last 5-7 years living directly on the route (can't say for sure about the first couple). I have no desire to ever run it, and it requires a small amount of advanced planning, but it's clear to me that the civic and economic value it creates easily outweighs whatever minor inconvenience it causes. Let's not let the squeakiest wheels run the show.

by dno on Mar 17, 2014 9:39 pm • linkreport

Will, I was once training for a half-marathon and had to do my biggest run the same weekend as a DC marathon so I decided to do what you did. The difference is that the night before I had been involved in a very serious beer pong tournament, in which I had gotten to the finals. When I woke up to run, I think I was still drunk. But, much to my surprise, not only did I make my goal, I beat my expected time.

by David C on Mar 17, 2014 9:49 pm • linkreport

Chicago has 4.3 times the population of DC. There are many ways in which Washington cannot compete with Chicago, but our subway system is actually pretty competitive. I stand by my claim.

by alurin on Mar 17, 2014 10:30 pm • linkreport

Why can't this marathon course be set up roughly between East Potomac Park or Haines Point and upper Rock Creek Pkwy (Beach Drive)? Let the participants get a great view of the Potomac, Kennedy Center, Mall, Rock Creek Park, etc... If there is insistence that the course include a neighborhood, let the neighborhood (or two) rotate annually.

The runners can run on Ohio Drive (or start SW and use Maine Ave) and up and down Rock Creek Pkwy and Beach Drive.

by Transport. on Mar 17, 2014 11:15 pm • linkreport

Ohio Drive during a marathon is so boring. I remember during Marine Corps it was just soul crushing.

by David C on Mar 17, 2014 11:27 pm • linkreport

alurin -- not really. Chicago's subway system mostly serves Chicago (21 of the 145 stations are in the suburbs, whereas in the Metrorail system, 45 of the 86 stations are in the suburbs). Granted Chicago is much bigger as a city both physically and in terms of population. Metrorail is a polycentric system with a significant portion of the trackage outside of the city, without the same level of station density in the city.

That being said, DC is smaller. Even so, we'd benefit from having more subway lines within the city, which would support more density in certain places and make more places capable of supporting car-light living.

by Richard Layman on Mar 18, 2014 5:48 am • linkreport

wrt the "appropriateness" of the marathon, I believe that living in a city, the city doesn't exclusively belong to residents, it is shared. That being said, better balancing the contradictions that arise from such events are in order.

But the reality is, most people don't pay attention, so they are most always going to be caught unaware. This is exacerbated by inadequate information systems (as discussed above).

by Richard Layman on Mar 18, 2014 5:50 am • linkreport

I totally agree with the resident. Washington should host perhaps two such marathon events per year. The Marine Corps Marathon is such a tradition, it is iconic. Let other marathon sponsors compete for the second spot or rotate the event from year to year.

by Amy on Mar 18, 2014 7:38 am • linkreport

I never liked the Georgia Avenue festival. That one completely halted crosstown traffic.

by Orgasmaddict on Mar 18, 2014 8:18 am • linkreport

Ohio Drive during a marathon is so boring. I remember during Marine Corps it was just soul crushing.

Whereas inconveniencing tens of thousands of people and keeping them from going about their business is exciting and soul lifting.

by contrarian on Mar 18, 2014 8:44 am • linkreport

Washington should host perhaps two such marathon events per year.

Then I've got some good news: DC already only hosts two marathons per year - the National/Rock and Roll Marathon in the spring and the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall.

by Alex B. on Mar 18, 2014 8:50 am • linkreport

@dno

I love this town, but complaining so vociferously about an annual marathon is typical of the type-A, tightly-wound stereotype our citizenry is often labeled with.

I'd say dismissing complaints is typical of the kind of people who don't actually have to do anything on a Saturday - white-collar workers.

For people who have to go to work on that Saturday (e.g. service employees), this is a big deal. For those who do have to get to work, the street closures are not publicized well enough or well enough in advance, and the routes through the course are not called out. If you take the bus south to work on 16th, 14th, or Georgia Ave, you are basically screwed, or your travel time will be extended by having to transfer to metro and back to bus.

I don't think the marathon itself is a problem, the issue is that the information given out is inadequate. Metro doesn't publicize free bus-rail transfers enough. Police enforcing the marathon area know nothing about alternative driving routes or where people should go. That is the kind of planning that is needed.

by MLD on Mar 18, 2014 8:51 am • linkreport

I live a block away from the letter writer and I completely disagree with her. First, there was plenty of notice of the marathon, my whole block had paper flyers with notice of the event and street closures. Second, it really was no trouble at all to find an alternate route to get anywhere. Third, I love having events like this in the neighborhood. It's a lot of fun to see the runners and its great publicity for the neighborhood.

by I. Rex on Mar 18, 2014 9:05 am • linkreport

It didn't personally inconvenience me, but if I lived in SE DC and the streets were closed until 1 or 2 instead of 10:30? A much bigger inconvenience.

by selxic on Mar 18, 2014 9:09 am • linkreport

Easy solution. Make the Rock n Roll strictly a half-marathon. It would minimize the disruption east of the river and cut down the closure times in half. I have run in the Rock n Roll half marathon the past few years and it's a fun event. It's no NYC, Boston or Chicago marathon, though. Most runners ( I would guess 90% ) run the half. It's a good training run for those working on running a full marathon later in the season.

In New York over the weekend the city also held a half-marathon -- it just makes sense to keep it at that distance when you add up all the problems with a full marathon.

It seems like 90% of the runners are

by Patrick madden on Mar 18, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

They should have run the marathon on a Sunday instead of Saturday when many merchants and the Library of Congress are all open.

by Capt. Hilts on Mar 18, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

Do you people ever really hear yourselves? This wasn't the end of the world. I feel bad if anything serious happened in your world because you would just really be a walking disaster. This is one day out of the whole year. It is for a few hours. If you have to work or have an appointment or something, pull out a map, go on WMATA (if you have to use public transportation) and figure out a plan. For the person who couldn't be bothered to walk a few blocks to the bus, really? Are we that lazy?

This wasn't an unexpected thing. They let people know. Also, maybe you should put this in your calendar for next year so you have plenty of notice. If you can't learn to be a flexible person and realize the world doesn't revolve around you, you are going to have a rough go at it.

by Sarah P. on Mar 18, 2014 9:45 am • linkreport

I live a few blocks off last weekend's marathon course and there were no fliers or anything distributed; I only knew about it because I spotted the race route signs. I spread the word to some of my neighbors and they hadn't been aware of it at all.

But the races are the least of it - as the weather gets warmer we'll have a run, walk, or something almost every weekend. This is when it gets burdensome, when every Saturday you have to plan around street closures. If you don't live within walking distance of a Metrorail stop, street closures can trap you, since the buses will be blocked.

As for bringing tourists into DC, how many will actually stay in town as opposed to those who will stay in Maryland or Virginia?

It's gotten to be a problem and I think there needs to be a limit on how often the city closes down large sections for extended periods of time.

by Todd on Mar 18, 2014 9:48 am • linkreport

I live on the periphery of the course in Columbia Heights and enough sense to put off any errands until Sunday because I pay attention and knew the route came near us. The streets around me were complete gridlock (Georgia, Irving, Kenyon, Columbia, Warder, Park Place, Michigan Ave, etc.) because there were (I'm assuming) no signs alerting people about the street closures and to find alternate routes into the city...so the cars kept coming, and by mid-morning our usually quiet neighborhood was filled with a cacophony of honking horns and people yelling at each other.

I kept thinking to myself: I hope no one around here has a medical emergency! Even though we are only blocks from the hospital it would have taken an ambulance 45 minutes to get to our house. The problem is that when you shut down the city you really need to have diversions far away from the routes itself--otherwise what you get is chaos.

While I generally support marathons in this case it seems that the well-being of residents is not considered in the planning. I'm not talking about inconvenience, but safety and quality of life. The city seemed content to let all the streets near the route become completely unusable and filled with angry drivers content to take out their frustrations with their annoying car horns.

by drk on Mar 18, 2014 9:59 am • linkreport

I've been reading the comments and sense the arrogance of some of the responders, i.e., mocking the writer's spelling; suggesting that the writer should have known about the race weeks inadvance and so on.

I live in SE, Ward 8, and did not receive anything in the mail or on my door knob about the race--just like last year.

I attempted to go to a funeral on Georgia Ave NW last year--never made it. The traffic was horrible. After driving through several allies around several neighborhoods in an effort to return to my beloved SE--it took over 2-hours. Those policemen/women who were paid by the organizers were not helpful and would not let folks with DC car tags--some could see their streets--cross the street to get to their homes.

Someone listed all the benefits. Those benefits did not outweigh me missing the funeral--which was also late.

by DCWoman on Mar 18, 2014 10:04 am • linkreport

Sarah P: +1 +1 +1 +1

As sorry as I feel that Purrsey had to skip her yoga class (!!), this is one event, once a year, for a few hours.

This post and its comments reek of NIMBYism. You all want to live in an urban environment? Sometimes urban places host marathons. Check a map, plan ahead, and go about your day.

by Chad on Mar 18, 2014 10:12 am • linkreport

I would say all of the other runs that occur in DC are not nearly as disruptive given they are shorter distances and mostly clustered around the Mall area.

The city seemed content to let all the streets near the route become completely unusable and filled with angry drivers content to take out their frustrations with their annoying car horns.

Yep, this is why they need to create a real detour plan and disseminate it to the public and police directing traffic.

by MLD on Mar 18, 2014 10:13 am • linkreport

I live three blocks from the marathon course in Columbia Heights near Georgia Ave., and the only reason I knew anything about it was because I ran it. I don't recall ever having seen a sign or notice posted anywhere in the neighborhood nor did I get anything in the mail about it. I'm not sure whether that would be the responsibility of the District or the race organizers.

Even knowing about the course of the run, it was difficult to figure out where/when the buses were running or re-routed to (WMATA's page on bus service was troublingly ambiguous) nor what particular routes were available to get out of the perimeter by car, nor when each point along the route would reopen either metered or fully. If I actually needed to cross the race at some point during the race, I'd've been pretty pissed too at the Saturday morning surprise.

by Mike on Mar 18, 2014 10:23 am • linkreport

Chad - it's not a "once a year event." While this, specific, race might be once a year, there are several throughout the year - in addition to parades. And most of them are run on Sundays when there is less 'working' traffic. Had this race been run on a Sunday, I don't think it would have been as disruptive.

I don't live in the area, I just have empathy for their complaints.

by Capt. Hilts on Mar 18, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

@Richard Layman: Yes, Metro includes more area outside the district than CTA does outside of the city of Chicago. Then again, the Chicago MSA has 1.6 times the population of the Washington MSA.
Yes, we need to increase Metro capacity in the core. I'm not saying that we are somehow over-capacity, or even at where we need to be. But I don't see how anyone can argue that DC is not punching above its demographic weight in the subway department.
By contrast, Boston has a less extensive subway system, yet you don't get the same kind of bitching and moaning about the Boston Marathon or Head of the Charles.

by alurin on Mar 18, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

@JDS32/Rich: you cite measures of the "L" being intensive, not extensive :D

by Payton Chung on Mar 18, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

The race course goes right down my block on Cap Hill. My particular block is one that is kind of trapped. And we had to leave early in the morning to drive to New York. So I got up very early Saturday moved the car to a block I could drive away from. And we left as the lead runners were coming down my street. No problem Go runners.

My feeling is if you don't want activity like this go live in Bum F__. Me I like seeing the streets used for other things then driving.

by Cap HIll Keith on Mar 18, 2014 10:34 am • linkreport

Cap Hill Keith: I, too, like seeing the streets used for things other than driving. And, I'm glad you were able to make plans to avoid the chaos.

A lot of folks that work on Saturdays on Capital Hill didn't have that option. The LoC opens for business at 8:30 - after the start of the race. Most of the Library's employees don't live in the immediate neighborhood and were not at all aware of the presence of the race until I told them on Friday. I'm sure a lot had a rude surprise trying to get to work. Again, if the race had been on Sunday, the problem of people trying to get to work would have been much less an issue.

by Capt. Hilts on Mar 18, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

Maybe next year, as a condition of Rock n Roll's permit to close streets, we should require that they provide an ombudsman to DC's residents. The permits won't be granted until this ombudsman has personally made contact with every DC resident within a ten mile radius of the course to ensure that they are aware that the race is happening. If any resident believes they might move about on Saturday morning, the ombudsman must provide the resident with a "personal mobility plan" which gives a detailed description of how they will find their way from Point A to Point B. These personal mobility plans will be subject to review from the DC Office of Planning, and must be approved by the resident's ANC prior to issuing Rock n Roll's permits.

by Chad on Mar 18, 2014 10:59 am • linkreport

We enjoyed how the marathon blocked thru-traffic on our cross street: it made for lovely quiet on a Saturday morning. Normally, DdoT’s "No Trucks" signs keep no trucks from rumbling past. We'll look forward to the blizzard of signs, letters and flyers next year, since they portend good news. There's certainly no problem for someone moving about the (ahem, city) on foot or on a bicycle.

If you live ten minutes from your laundry, maybe walk? Or wait? See: living for your car has costs. (Yeah, we know: everyone is elderly, has a bad knee, and a spouse with a heart condition who works in Pennsylvania, and seven disabled children who all attend different schools.)

by Sydney on Mar 18, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

Chad. Folks that work on the Hill weren't informed and had a tough time getting to work.

Had the race been held on a Sunday, this problem would have been far less an important issue.

Step outside yourself and think of the folks that have to work for a living on Saturdays and don't live in the immediate area.

by Capt. Hilts on Mar 18, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

Maybe next year, as a condition of Rock n Roll's permit to close streets, we should require that they provide an ombudsman to DC's residents. The permits won't be granted until this ombudsman has personally made contact with every DC resident within a ten mile radius of the course to ensure that they are aware that the race is happening. If any resident believes they might move about on Saturday morning, the ombudsman must provide the resident with a "personal mobility plan" which gives a detailed description of how they will find their way from Point A to Point B. These personal mobility plans will be subject to review from the DC Office of Planning, and must be approved by the resident's ANC prior to issuing Rock n Roll's permits.

I'll assume this is sarcasm. This kind of interaction isn't necessary, but getting the post office to deliver a flyer to every door in selected zip codes in DC is not difficult.

Anything would be better than a map that doesn't actually call out the crossing points of the course, and police officers who shrug their shoulders and send cars on an endless circle when uninformed people do end up driving.

by MLD on Mar 18, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

To your earlier point Capt. Hilts, I continue to believe this IS a once a year event. The only other marathon held in DC is the Marine Corps whose course is mostly limited to the Mall, Rock Creek, and the Tidal Basin and does not by any means stretch into residential areas to the extent Rock n Roll does. I do agree with you that there are parades. But I think we can agree that parades do not victimize LoC employees to the same extent?

If this race were held on a Sunday, probably at least a dozen churches would lose their street parking due to closures and we'd have a whole different crowd writing letters to Tom Sherwood. Step outside yourself and think of all of those unsuspecting church goers.

by Chad on Mar 18, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport

Whereas inconveniencing tens of thousands of people and keeping them from going about their business is exciting and soul lifting.

It is, isn't it?

I'm not sure about the numbers of inconvenienced, but there are 30,000 marathon participants and then additional fans. So benefiting one set of tens of thousands of people at the expense of another is not unheard of.

But primarily you're pushing a false premise. Wanting a nice race course is not equivalent to wanting to inconvenience people, even if that is a direct result. No more than your desire to not be inconvenienced is equivalent to wanting marathon runners to run laps around the RFK parking lot.

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 11:14 am • linkreport

Chad, there is race/walk for the Cure and The Cherry Blossom race, coming up.

by Capt. Hilts on Mar 18, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

I smell a business opportunity - The Marathon avoidance App. Create an app that

1. Alerts people that a street closure is occurring in their area. [user configure how much advance they want and how often to be reminded]
2. Allows them to map a route that avoids street closures.

Cities would then require races and parades to pay the fee to the app company to include their event in the database.

Bam. Make money.

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

Capt. Hilts, which residential neighborhood does the Cherry Blossom Race affect? I am aware of this race as I am registered to run it and have for the last four years.

by Chad on Mar 18, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

I’ve been wanting to write something here since Saturday, but was too irate to do it without sounding like a lunatic.

I find the snobbish (“get over it”) level of complete disregard for the I lives of more than 100K residents of Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and Petworth to be the highest and most unattractive form of ego. Then again, DC’s got that in spaces. I live in CoHi, and, as expected, because it is every year, the affect on the entire street grid between 16th and Georgia can only be described as “cluster-f**K”.

First point, I only knew it was this weekend because I saw this posted here a little prior, but neither me, nor any of my neighbors got a flier, or any notice whatsoever what was coming.

Second point, because there is NO notice to any person driving into the city from points north to avoid the city, thousands of cars descend on Columbia Heights from 3 main arteries, 16th, 14th, and Georgia, and get as far as Harvard before they realize something is amiss. The streets were gridlocked with (understandably) irate people by 8:30am in the morning who had to figure out how to get to all points south in the city when more than a solid mile (east/west) was blocked. The effect, a mass of vehicles, buses, delivery trucks etc slowly winding through every minor street and even back alleys to try to get out of the mess, honking, swearing etc the entire way.

Third point, as does happen every year, a fire truck or ambulance gets stuck. This year, a fire truck from the station on 14th, took a solid 13 minutes to get from there to 13th street at 9:00am I guess public safety pales in importance to a relative few being able to inconvenience literally tens of thousands of residents of Columbia Heights and Petworth?

Fourth point…The effect on me? My gf, a nurse working the early morning shift at the Howard University Hospital was attacked at work by one of the many “off” homeless living in DC that find their way there for help. This guy decided to attack her for whatever reason. She was thrown across the exam room, hit her head on the wall and passed out. Thankfully, she was at a hospital and there will be no long term damage as she has just a nasty bruise on her face but no one knew that then.

I got the call at 9:45 from her nurse friend who was on duty and having literally ZERO option via car or bus, had to hoof it. Luckily, I was only 2 miles away and am not in awful shape so was there in about 20 minutes. Normal time to get there Saturday morning from our house? 5-7 minutes.

109K people who live in the three zipcodes I traversed getting to the hospital (20009, 20010, 20001) were held hostage, literally and figuartively for 6 hours so 25,000 people (according to their website) could go for a run. Yeah, that makes “perfect” sense.

And as far as the “benefit” to the city goes, the bulk of the participants stay in hotels in Crystal City and Arlington, so DC’s financial benefit from hotel or sales taxes is absolutely minimal at best and certainly not worth inconvenicing a full 17% of the Districts population, and the thousands of other people coming into the District for business/work etc on Saturdays.

Beach drive from the DC/MD line, to RCP to Haines Point is just over 20 miles roundtrip. Add in a loop around the mall and you have a full marathon without affecting nearly one person and it is a mostly scenic and beautiful route. There are other routes that can be taken that are also less intrusive. Figure it out.

Yes, we get it..”you” weren’t affected, but lets not be so mindlessly selfish to think that simply because “you” weren’t affected, that the other 100K people who live in these three neighborhoods weren’t.

by Cohi on Mar 18, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

Cohi - you speak for these "100K people" now? I also live in Columbia Heights and do not share your view.

I get it, "you" were affected, but don't be so mindlessly selfish to think that simply because "you" were affected that the other 100K people who live in these neighborhoods didn't participate in the race, didn't enjoy seeing the race, or weren't inconvenienced at all by the race.

I'm sincerely sorry to hear about your girlfriend and hope that she's OK.

by Chad on Mar 18, 2014 11:51 am • linkreport

@Chad,

Feel free to go door to door in those 3 neighborhoods and take a random sampling of those who were inconvenienced and those who weren't. I will Deed over my house to you if you don't find that atleast twice as many people were inconvenienced as those who weren't. Let us know how it goes.

by Cohi on Mar 18, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

@Cohi, sorry to hear about your girlfriend and glad she'll be okay, but what happened to her had nothing to do with the race. I understand the desire to be by her side as soon as possible, but as you said she was already at a hospital receiving care, so the extra 13-15 minutes it took you to get there while frustrating to you, does not justify ending the race.

In my view, the highest form of ego is the inability to roll with life's challenges and inconveniences. That trait also makes for a poor city dweller. As long as emergency vehicles retain the ability to respond to emergencies, I still haven't seen an issue that warrants calling off the race.

As to the comment that the bulk of participants stay in VA, Woodley Park was absolutely teeming with runners and their supporters on Saturday afternoon, presumably because they had stayed at one of the nearby hotels.

by dno on Mar 18, 2014 12:04 pm • linkreport

Cohi, that does sound awful and I feel bad for your girlfriend, but...

You were not "literally held hostage" unless there was some sort of ransom demanded for your release. And you weren't held captive since you were free to come and go. Your options for travel were limited.

Also, and others have said this too, if you knew about the race before it happened, it does not matter how you found out. That means the effort to inform people succeeded. GGW is an actual source of information, so if you heard about it from them, that's a win for the marathon organizers.

because there is NO notice to any person driving into the city from points north to avoid the cityThere was tons of notice. The paper. The radio. GGW. Etc...

Yes, it sounds like you were inconvenienced. But, it's not like your gf needed a blood transfusion that only you could provide or something. She had to wait 15 extra minutes to see you (if you were even able to see her once you got there). I don't see how that changes things.

The firetruck delay is a real issue. And we should look at ways to prevent that short of having no events ever.

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

I have the solution. Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre urban forest in Northwest DC--a total area of approximately 3.1 million square feet. A lot of room to run in a naturally beautiful environment. Starting point could be Carter Baron on 16th Street. There's parking and a bus stop right in front.

This would minimize traffic, folks would still be in DC and the Rock n Roll music theme could be a tune by DC's own Donald Byrd and the Blackbyrds, "Doing It In the Park".

by DCWoman on Mar 18, 2014 12:07 pm • linkreport

I live in Columbia Heights and I didnt particularly notice the race. I actually used to live on Harvard and enjoy watching the marathons with my morning cup of coffee. That said obviously one can see how it might disadvantage people. Maybe the organizers should have to pony up money to subsidize metro or provide shuttles or something.

by BTA on Mar 18, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

Columbia Heights has an eponymous Metro station. Howard University’s is called “Shaw”. Otherwise, it’s a 20 minute walk, downhill, for a moderately abled-bodied American.

I find the snobbish (“I live for my car and free car storage”) level of complete disregard for five billion human beings who have to breathe the planet’s air to be the highest and most unattractive form of ego.

Yes, we get it. You think you aren’t affected, but let’s not be so mindlessly selfish as to think that simply because you think you aren’t affected, that the other five billion people who live on these four continents aren’t.

I think we're seeing how non-serious the complaints about the footrace are. If you make bad choices about how to get around, please live with them. Thanks!

by Sydney on Mar 18, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

@Purrsey

You're health conscious enough to go to a Yoga class but couldn't be bothered to walk (or bike!) the mile and a half to get to the studio? Really?

by what? on Mar 18, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

"I have the solution. Rock Creek Park is a 1,754-acre urban forest in Northwest DC--a total area of approximately 3.1 million square feet. A lot of room to run in a naturally beautiful environment. Starting point could be Carter Baron on 16th Street. There's parking and a bus stop right in front."

Do you realistically think that you could get 30,000 people to park there or get there by bus/shuttle? There's no Metro access to the start, which is pretty much an imperative for a race of this size.

by Anonymous Runner on Mar 18, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

To: by Anonymous Runner

Hundreds of thousands, even a million, has attended marches/rallies in DC. How do they get there: Buses, shuttles, walk, run, camp out.

by DC Woman on Mar 18, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

Hundreds of thousands, even a million, has attended marches/rallies in DC. How do they get there: Buses, shuttles, walk, run, camp out.

Umm, and Metro. Carter Barron is not remotely accessible enough to serve as the starting or ending point for one of these things. They all start and finish near a Metro station for good reason; that's how you can get lots of people into or out of the area quickly.

I feel your pain on the disruption - would it be better if you had something directly mailed to you in advance with more information about this specific event?

by MLD on Mar 18, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

I live on one of the race routes and think it's really cool that the runners pass by my apt, but I agree with Richard Layman - communication was poor. The signs advertising the race route - looked like any other sign that people stick in the ground (it could have been a "vote for me for mayor" sign for all I knew) and the signs did not clarify that this exact road would be closed. I also, did not get a flyer stating that I was on a race route and would be inconvenienced.

I am connected however, and received an email from MPD's listserv alerting me to the event and the extensive road closures. I forwarded that email to everyone I knew who do not read blogs and are not on listservs and told them to forward - as alot of people had no idea this race was happening.

But the city should still communicate this to residents better.

While you won't be able to alert everyone - a little more communication by the city and I think this race wouldn't be as disruptive.

by Urban_Architect on Mar 18, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

@dno,

I don't recall blaming a the race for a hobo throwing my gf. Please point out above where I said anything remotely so.

And next time you get a call from the hospital to tell you a loved one is unconscious and bleeding from the eye, I hope you will be as understanding when a vanity event like a marathon either stops you from getting to them, or help getting to you.

There are 210 hotel rooms in Woodley Park. There are more than 4,000 rooms between Rosslyn and Crystal City. Math question...where do you think most stayed?

@Sydney,

It is clear you haven't lived here long and haven't tried using metro on the weekend but thanks for your useless advice. I checked as I was walking (I have an app and everything!) in that direction, and the next train south was 22 minutes away. And since you don't appear to know, the Shaw station is a half mile east from 14th street, so walking there isn't a "20 minute walk downhill).
Considering I have my own offstreet parking, and you've completely gone off the reservation with this response, I suggest sticking to the thesis of the argument.

And David C,

David Alpert could tell us, but I would be shocked if even 1% of the 6 million residents of the DCMSA read GGW, so no...it is not a usable source of information when you are shutting down virtually an entire city of ~650,000 people so 25K people can exercise. Posters above were making lots of hay about all the "notice" they supposedly received but I don't know anyone, including the half dozen neighbors I discussed it with who were notified of anything.

by Cohi on Mar 18, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

David Alpert could tell us, but I would be shocked if even 1% of the 6 million residents of the DCMSA read GGW, so no...it is not a usable source of information when you are shutting down virtually an entire city of ~650,000 people so 25K people can exercise.

But it's only one of many ways the information was available.

What do you think are some actual solutions that could be implemented for next year?

by MLD on Mar 18, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

I would be shocked if even 1% of the 6 million residents of the DCMSA read GGW, so no...it is not a usable source of information when you are shutting down virtually an entire city of ~650,000 people so 25K people can exercise.

Not by itself, no, but it's part of a complete breakfast. You found out about the race before hand, why does it matter how you found out? I did get a flyer and I live a few blocks away, but who cares. The point is to saturate media so that everyone knows, and many people complaining here did know. If almost everyone knows about the race beforehand, then they did their job.

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

To: by MLD

I agree. It's not perfect; thousands (many of whom do not live in DC) would be affected trying to get to the race. But neither is the current process--where thousands are affected trying to get around the race.

by DC Woman on Mar 18, 2014 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Cohi

I think that most of the runners and family/friends stayed in DC.

There are 210 hotel rooms in Woodley Park. There are more than 4,000 rooms between Rosslyn and Crystal City. Math question...where do you think most stayed?
Your math is wrong. There are over 2100 rooms in Woodley Park, 1,316 at the Marriott Wardman Park (the largest in DC) and 830 at the Omni Shoreham. Down the hill at the Washington Hilton, there are more than 1000 rooms, and about 800 at the Washington Marriott. That's 4000 rooms already, just from four DC hotels.

The Washington Business Journal has some figures on economic benefits: $22.8 million in economic activity, 35,000 out-of-town visitors.

by David R. on Mar 18, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

I'm not advocating one way or the other for this (I slept through it), but I do wonder about that 22.8 million dollar figure. Does that refer to economic benefits to DC proper, or REGIONAL economic benefits? The distinction matters, as DC residents bore the brunt of the disruptions, while I'm sure many surrounding jurisdictions shared in the economic benefits.

by JES on Mar 18, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

I agree it could be handled much better but its a slippery slope to make it all or nothing about such events. Part of the lifeblood of major cities is large events. Just about every major city in the world holds festivals or parades or marathons etc that cause disruptions. So in terms of outreach it was very poor (I live a block away from the route and only heard about it from DCist) and alternatives should have been provided. But I firmly believe that dealing with some of these hassles is part of living in a city. They can't be held responsible for any and all unforeseen events that might arise during that time. (Just to clarify my neutrality, I think marathons are pretty stupid personally but if thousands of people want to do them there is probably some value to it).

by BTA on Mar 18, 2014 1:27 pm • linkreport

There are a few small changes to the course that might help.

The course climbed out of Rock Creek at Calvert St., which necessitated closing both Connecticut Ave. and Calvert St. The race could instead leave Rock Creek at Harvard St. leaving Conn and the Duke Ellington Bridge clear. Distance would remain the same. Harvard Hill's longer than Calvert. St. Hill, but also a shallower grade.

by David R. on Mar 18, 2014 1:29 pm • linkreport

I hate these events. I don't run, and I don't really care about runners that have a need to run very longer distances.

Having said that, is it that big of a deal that they hold running events within the city a few times a year? No. Is it a big deal if the execution of such events is terrible and inconveniences residents more than necessary? Yes.

The problem is the execution. There is no need to cut through the middle of central DC, effectively cutting the city in half. There is no reason communication could not be better, and have officials along the route that actually help reroute traffic to points where crossings are allowed. There is no reason why inbound traffic could not be warned well in advance to prevent the inevitable gridlock that surrounds the race route.

Do marathons need to go away? No. Should this one go away, at least in its current form, based on its track record of terrible execution? Yes please!

by Chris T on Mar 18, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

I’ve been wanting to write something here since Saturday, but was too irate to do it without sounding like a lunatic.

You should have waited longer. And "literally" does not mean what you think it means.

I can absolutely sympathize with the lack of notice complaints - the organizers, and the city, need to do a much better job next year. And the access to hospitals issue is real (for sick people, not people visiting sick people, CoHi). But the "this impacts my life for half a day once a year, so the city should ban the marathon" sentiment is just silly.

by dcd on Mar 18, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

My big issue is that the city closed off major thoroughfares on both weekend mornings. Pretty annoying to have the 9th/12th street tunnels off 395 closed until after 1 pm both weekend mornings. Yes, there are other ways out of and into the city, but whatever was going on Sunday morning was not nearly as well-publicized as the marathon on Saturday.

by worthing on Mar 18, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

Metro's single tracking and station closures probably do more to inhibit movement and depress economic activity every weekend than this marathon does once per year. I hope everyone that has such strong opinions about the inconvenience the marathon caused has equally strong opinions on the quality of weekend Metro service.

by JDS32 on Mar 18, 2014 2:09 pm • linkreport

I think there was a St. Patricks day parade on Sunday? Never been but it sounds familiar.

by BTA on Mar 18, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

alurin -- agreed. We do well. It could even be better, were the city committed to Metrorail expansion in a substantive manner (and we did a height limit increase to come up with the money to pay for it). Another 20 stations in the city on some different route configurations would open up more of the city in a substantive way.

Note that more people ride the subway/el here than in Chicago. (But that's because we have more jobs concentrated in the core + the transit benefit for federal workers.)

by Richard Layman on Mar 18, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

I really enjoy these kinds of events. They bring life to the city. I live in the city BECAUSE of vibrant events - and a variety of transportation options - not despite them. Sometimes I'm inconvenienced by events I have no interest in (Nationals game crowds) or no notice of (motorcades) but let's work on improving access, not eliminating vibrancy.

by Chris in DC on Mar 18, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

The reaction from the "get over it" crowd here is reprehensible. Here's hoping your house catches fire during next year's marathon and the fire truck can't make it through the gridlock. Hopefully I hear about it so I can come to your former-house-now-heap-of-ashes and say, "Deal with it! It's just half a day! Why'd you make the choice to rely on fire engines that have four wheels and drive on roads?!? Go live in bumf**k if you don't want your home to burn down!!"

Nobody's asking you to never run a marathon again, but to be so flippant about legitimate concerns from people who can't get to work/to a funeral on time/EMS service they desperately need is just shameful.

by WestEgg on Mar 18, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

but to be so flippant about legitimate concerns

Who's being flippant?

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 3:55 pm • linkreport

I live on the Hill and am close to the route and luckly this year is wasn't as much of an issue for me. However, in the past it has been. Some people work on Saturdays and rely on public transit other than Metro, and this isn't a minor hassle.

I will say that one year there were so many event that it seemed like large chunks of the city were shut down one or both days of the weekend for many months. It was more than a little ridiculous. It was a major hassle for lot of people coming to the city for reasons other than the event, and basically contributed to a poor quality of life for people in the affected areas and others. This is no small thing.

I don't mind these events generally, but this particular marathon just annoys me because the seem to take over so much more. They have gotten better about informing those most directly affected but it still doesn't help those who have to do some serious preplanning and maneuvering just to get from point A to point B to get to work.

by ET on Mar 18, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

In terms of long term development/ mobility bang for the buck I think the best thing DC could do would be a cross time line going through Adams Morgan or down 16th and then east through Washington Hospital Center and then perhaps south again somewhere between 8th and 19th east. You'd create a bunch of new transfer points that bypass Metro Center, Chinatown and Lenfant.

by BTA on Mar 18, 2014 4:07 pm • linkreport

cross town*

by BTA on Mar 18, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

@WestEgg
Here's hoping your house catches fire during next year's marathon and the fire truck can't make it through the gridlock
Can you cite a case where a road race caused a fire to grow out of control? Someone whose ambulance was delayed, with reportable results? I bet you can't, because there haven't been any.

by David R. on Mar 18, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty sure they would let emergency vehicles through? Not to mention they would probably dispatch from several firehouses all around the area there are like 5 in Ward 1 alone.

by BTA on Mar 18, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

@David C

Who's being flippant?

People who look at someone whose significant other was seriously injured and dismiss their concerns with "it's not like your gf needed a blood transfusion that only you could provide or something." That's flippant.

@ David R.

Do we have to wait for tragedy to strike before we're allowed to look at something like this marathon and make suggestions for how things might be handled differently? You're right, you got me, I can't cite a case where a road race caused a fire to grow out of control. I guess we should just react instead of thinking ahead. Which means we can totally ignore:

(1) Superfluous closures of lanes on the GW bridge caused traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, NJ. It took an ambulance seven minutes to make a trip that would've taken two minutes under normal circumstances. In this case, the elderly woman who died probably wouldn't have been revived by the ambulance--but it's not too far a leap to imagine that the outcome might have been different for someone who'd suffered a heart attack.

(2) From Cohi's own narrative: This year, a fire truck from the station on 14th, took a solid 13 minutes to get from there to 13th street at 9:00am. It sounds like nobody's home was badly damaged in this case, which means that we shouldn't worry about the possibility of a fire truck getting stuck in traffic in more dire circumstances because obviously those circumstances will never come to pass, right? Phew!

by WestEgg on Mar 18, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

@Westegg,
People who look at someone whose significant other was seriously injured and dismiss their concerns...[are] flippant

But that wasn't on your original list which was...

but to be so flippant about legitimate concerns from people who can't get to work/to a funeral on time/EMS service

Who's being flippant about those things?

I'm not so sure that "It took me 15 extra minutes to get to the hospital where my gf was getting medical attention" is a legitimate concern. At least, not a very critical one.

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 4:36 pm • linkreport

@WestEgg

Fire trucks and ambulances are driven by professionals who have navigated gridlock a few times in their lives.

Or perhaps you should also be advocating for banning cars during rush hour, lest fire trucks and ambulances get caught in the gridlock.

by JDS32 on Mar 18, 2014 4:44 pm • linkreport

@David C

My original list was meant to be illustrative, not comprehensive (and I think you know it). Either way I'm honestly very glad that you've never been in a situation where a loved one is hurt and you can't get to them right away. You should try having a little empathy.

@JDS32

Comparing avoidable gridlock resulting from a leisure activity to everyday traffic necessitated by people commuting is disingenuous, at best. And for the record, I *do* think we should reduce the number of cars on the road during rush hour by facilitating and encouraging transit use and bike/walkability. Just like I think we should reduce gridlock during marathons through better communication, increased traffic control measures, and thoughtful re-routing of the course in a way that allows for a viable, unique event that mitigates the impact on those who do not participate.

by WestEgg on Mar 18, 2014 4:52 pm • linkreport

@WestEgg
"Comparing avoidable gridlock resulting from a leisure activity to everyday traffic necessitated by people commuting is disingenuous, at best."

So, emergency vehicles getting stuck in gridlock is only acceptable if people are trying to get to work?

Also, are you this passionate about ambulances getting stuck in traffic from people going to and from sporting events? Or going to the beach?

by JDS32 on Mar 18, 2014 5:02 pm • linkreport

+1 @WestEgg

I'd like to see serious consideration to re-routing the marathon.

Are their routes that reduce the impact in residential neighborhoods?

Are there alternative routes that can reduce the threat of gridlock?

Are there routes that can maximize bus availability?

Can all of this be accomplished and still provide an interesting route for runners?

by kob on Mar 18, 2014 5:04 pm • linkreport

@JDS32

So, emergency vehicles getting stuck in gridlock is only acceptable if people are trying to get to work?

How lucky for you that it's not a windy day. Otherwise I fear your straw man would be blown right over.

I am in fact concerned about ambulances getting stuck in gameday traffic and beach traffic, and also theatre traffic and patriotic fireworks display traffic, and many other kinds of traffic not described herein! Unfortunately it's more difficult to move a football stadium or a beach than it is to think critically about strategically re-routing a marathon.

by WestEgg on Mar 18, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

I also live on the route, and did not get a flyer. I heard about it at the ANC meeting the Monday night before. I don't know about the flyers, but the website was not at all clear about road closures, crossing points, metro access, etc. The map was not nearly detailed enough for a resident--it was geared toward runners and spectators. Also, as resident of ANC6D (SW and near SE) I can assure you this part of the city has a walk or run three out of four weekends from the middle of March through November. Some are more disruptive than others, but patience does wear thin when we seem to bear the brunt of all that activity.

by CriticalEyeSW on Mar 18, 2014 6:10 pm • linkreport

@DavidC
"it's not like your gf needed a blood transfusion that only you could provide or something. She had to wait 15 extra minutes to see you (if you were even able to see her once you got there). I don't see how that changes things."

And this is exactly why people look at GGW like its a lead lined echo chamber and no one other than the couple hundred regular readers take it with any level of seriousness.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by WTF on Mar 18, 2014 7:34 pm • linkreport

I'm a resident of Hillcrest, and saw DDOT's portable digital display boards along I-295 warning of street closures. This one didn't impact our travel plans, and we would have planned ahead if it were. For locals who also drive and pay attention, this method should work fairly well. Note, however, that this is a small subset of the population.

However, a few years ago we were trying to go on this same trip, and our usual route crosses Minnesota to get to I-295 N. We hadn't seen the signs or had forgotten, and upon encountering the street closure, asked the police who were doing the closing how to get to 295. Not a clue. We, along with dozens of other cars, threaded our way up through neighborhoods, and finally got stuck in Dupont Park, since the exits onto Minnesota were blocked up too... it took about two hours until we were finally actually on our way.

Turns out, we should have turned around, gone south to Suitland Pkwy to get on 295, that or taken Penn to the Beltway and avoided 295 entirely. Because the route we chose to try to detour around the race route led back to Minnesota a few times (GPS is next to useless in these situations), we were able to ask a number of a) course workers, and b) police officers how to get around the course. Nobody could give us an answer.

I think that course workers should at least be able to give drivers a few directions to the closest major arteries open to vehicle traffic. It would be helpful to put these on the same display signs that I saw the original notices on, to divert traffic before it comes to getting verbal directions.
No suggestions for bus transit, unfortunately.

Anyway, rambling done. It's not a big deal, but course workers / our finest should be able to direct around the route instead of just closing it.

by Jake on Mar 18, 2014 7:57 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted as part of a flamewar which we are excising.]

by David C on Mar 18, 2014 8:31 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted as part of a flamewar which we are excising.]

by WestEgg on Mar 18, 2014 9:16 pm • linkreport

For a site that promotes the "urbanist" lifestyle, these responses are hilarious.

You can't have it both ways, cherry picking just your own personal favorite aspects of city dwelling and attempting to banish the rest. When drivers complain here about losing parking to bike lanes, they're routinely told to get over it, that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.

Well, guess what? Same principle here. The number of marathon participants + staff + spectators + residents who enjoyed the race > The number of people who considered themselves significantly inconvenienced. Like, it's not even close.

These events are hugely popular and so it figures there are going to be more of them going forward. And the participants don't want to be shunted off to a remote corner of the city or have their marathon cut down to a 10K so they'll be all finished before you're ready to leave for brunch. They want to run through your neighborhood! On a Saturday. Yes, even if you end up being late for yoga. Deal with it.

by Dave on Mar 18, 2014 10:05 pm • linkreport

@WestEgg

We agree that tragedy hasn't struck, and that you can't find a case of an emergency that was worsened by road race traffic.

We shouldn't worry about the possibility of a fire truck getting stuck in traffic in more dire circumstances because obviously those circumstances will never come to pass, right?
No, we shouldn't worry any more than we do now. Fortunately, we live in a city with more than one firehouse, watched over by fire and police departments that have some skill in handling major public events - a police department that approves road closures like this.

People trot out lines about risk all the time - a bike line will slow fire engines, tighter corners will slow fire engines. Some lunatic puts explosives in his shoes and years later, we're still taking our shoes off at airports. The fear of razorblades in candy has hospitals running free x-rays of Halloween treats, decades after the initial rumors.

Fretting about what conceivably might possibly happen in the worst possible scenario, despite the lack of any indication that this has ever happened, is no way to plan a city.

by David R. on Mar 18, 2014 11:05 pm • linkreport

As a native Washingtonian I was not stuck at all. I got from point A to point B without any problem. I crossed some major arteries where the marathon was going on. Again, you have to know your neighborhood and all the nook and crannies to get in out. The problem is that too many people only know one way in and one way out of their neighborhood. Then some are so scared to cross streets even in their vehicles that are in crime-ridden neighborhoods. I saw it for myself...when a policemen instructed for a car to drive through Trinidad to get to New York Avenue, NE...the horror was on the driver face was priceless.

by Ward 6 Guy on Mar 19, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

How? You drove across the marathon route while it was going on?

The problem is that too many people only know one way in and one way out of their neighborhood.

Agree with this though - people here seem very attached to the routes they know.

by MLD on Mar 19, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

Quit bitching and start running!

by rnrgrl on Mar 19, 2014 7:27 pm • linkreport

"The problem is that too many people only know one way in and one way out of their neighborhood." This is NOT the problem if you live inside of the route, as I do. I drove from my home to a volunteer activity early in the morning (before the race started), then was unable to get within 15 blocks of my house when I tried to return. I was lucky to find a parking space, but it wasn't easy, and it was far from home. There is no reason this marathon has to disturb such a huge swath of residential DC.

by Arnold on Mar 20, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

What connection does a "national rock and roll marathon" have to the nation's capital, that would justify shutting down much of the city o n a Saturday, Isn't the national rock and roll museum in Cleveland? More it there, maybe they could use it,

by Buzz on Mar 20, 2014 10:24 pm • linkreport

This Saturday [tomorrow] it's a walk for epilepsy featuring the star of "Pawn Stars."

by Capt. Hilts on Mar 21, 2014 8:02 pm • linkreport

@Capt. Hilts -

are they closing any streets for the walk, or are they walking on the sidewalk?

by sk on Mar 22, 2014 10:48 am • linkreport

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