Will the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Change Course?

A map of the 2015 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon as of January. However, a new traffic regulation policy could change the course ahead of the March 15 event. Photo: Rock 'n' Roll Marathon/Competitor Group

Created in 2006 as the National Marathon, the event now known as the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon and Half Marathon was created as the only foot race to pass through all four city quadrants. According to the official website, the event promises to take runners “...on a rockin' 26.2 or 13.1 journey through our Nation's capital...” which will begin on Constitution Avenue and end at RFK Stadium Lot 7. While the event, which takes place on March 14 this year, promises that participants will be “...surrounded by the sights of the White House, Smithsonian Libraries, and Washington Monument...,” the Capitol Building may not be one of them, due to a the US Capitol Police's (USCP) new traffic policy.

Background

USCP’s mission is to “...protect the Congress, its legislative processes, Members, employees, visitors, and facilities from crime, disruption, or terrorism.” The agency's main jurisdiction is within a 47 square feet radius in and around Capitol Grounds. USCP is also a member of the Mayor's Special Events Task Group (MSETG), a coalition of city and federal agencies as well as private sector emergency organizations responsible for the city's safety planning efforts for events. “For the last several years, we've always had a very good working relationship,” said Josh Furlow, Vice President of Competitor Group, the company behind the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series. Since 2012, the race course either passed through or around the Capitol Grounds with USCP's permission. 

On June 1, USCP's governing body, the Capitol Police Board, enacted the Capitol Traffic Regulations (CTR), an amended traffic policy that is, according to a USCP press release, “...more comprehensive and specifically aligned with current traffic regulation and enforcement on Capitol Grounds.” CTR's twelfth chapter, which on focuses demonstrations and special events, has a section dedicated to road races, defined as “...any type of sponsored running or cycling event, such as a marathon or triathlon.” The section prohibits route retracing (participants can only pass through Capitol Grounds once) and limits races to Sundays. USCP did not comment on the changes. 

Response From Congresswoman Norton 

On October 29, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-D) sent a letter to House Sargent at Arms Paul Irving, who serves as head of the Capitol Police Board, to reconsider the new policy. “Constituents, including the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, and road race organizers have reached out to my office with concerns about this change in policy, the lack of community involvement in the decision, and the potential impacts the change will have on the surrounding community,” she wrote. 

Congresswoman Norton explained that Sunday races would not only interfere with residents attending religious services, but disrupt planning for Saturday events like the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. “The routes, timing, and days of many events have been worked out over a number of years and have involved community participation with the goal of minimizing disruptions to D.C. residents and various other stakeholders, including the D.C. Government,” she wrote. “However, the Saturday ban did not have similar participation by the community.” She ended the letter, requesting the Board to consider the rule at its next meeting, grandfathering past events and pending permit applications for Saturday road races, and a public meeting with affected residents, businesses, and organizations. 

How it Affects Capitol Hill 

According to the course map, runners will travel along H Street, NE, then turn right on 13th Street, NE. 

The course then turns on North Carolina Avenue, NE, passes by Lincoln Park on East Capitol Street, then turns left on Second Street, SE. Finally, runners will pass the Capitol Grounds on Constitution Avenue, SE. While road closures will begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:00 p.m., most will reopen after runners pass through. Until then, residents can utilize Metro (which will open at 5 a.m.) and “bump cross routes,” designated areas where drivers can cross the race route at MPD's discretion located at Eighth and H Streets (north/southbound), 10th and Eighth Streets at East Capitol, (north/southbound), Sixth and East Capitol Streets (northbound), and Fourth and East Capitol Streets (southbound). 

However, Scott Price, the Advisory Neighborhood Neighborhood Commission (ANC) representative for Single-Member District 6C03 notes that if the USCP does not relent, it would affect D Street, SE, which is under USCP jurisdiction. “If Capitol police don't participate...the entry/exit route on D [Street]...won't be available and instead the race course will leave Stanton Park for Union Station – which will close half of [Massachusetts Avenue] to traffic,” he wrote in an email. “The result will be that for several hours, people will have only [five] lanes inbound and outbound to enter and leave this portion of [Capitol Hill].” While temporarily ceding jurisdiction of D Street to MPD is a suggestion, Furlow says that the matter is still under discussion. “We'll be fine,” he said. “However, we wanted to display the Capitol to international runners.”