(The following is an excerpt from a feature published in the "Health & Fitness Issue" of GRAMMY magazine. Read the complete feature here.)
Yes, that's a group of Elvis Presley imitators running 26.2 miles.
In the last decade, rock and roll has invaded the world of competitive endurance sports and in the process has infused competitions with a Lollapalooza-like festival spirit. Live bands dot the courses of many marathons, runners dress up like rock stars and disco queens, and the post-race party comes complete with food, vendor booths, beer gardens, and big-name headliners.
It's a long way from the '70s, when marathons first appeared on the pop culture radar. These were respected but sparsely attended competitions that primarily attracted serious runners. But the inaugural event in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, held in San Diego in 1998, helped change the game. It was specifically designed to appeal to first-time marathon runners, as well as participants racing to raise funds for charities, and was complete with live music, themed water stations, cheer squads, and a family friendly atmosphere. The initial race drew a field of 18,000 — the largest for a debut marathon event. Known for its "Running Elvi" — runners dressed up as rock's King — the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series has grown into a huge party for both runners and spectators. From the outset, race organizers realized they were onto something.
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Since 1998, this specific race series, owned by the San Diego-based Competitor Group, has become the world's largest running series. In 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series races were hosted in 26 cities in North America with more than 590,000 participants crossing the finish line. And with charity partners raising more than $267 million at Competitor Group events, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series has become one of the most successful charity fundraising events in the world.
Research shows on-course entertainment is a big draw for competitors when it comes to choosing a race. Aside from creating a fun running atmosphere, live music has other added benefits for runners. …
Read the complete "Bands On The Run" feature in the summer issue of GRAMMY magazine.
(Melissa Blazek is a Los Angeles-based pop culture writer, marathon runner and triathlete. She runs, mostly, because it's cheaper than therapy.)