Back in 2013, I ran the inaugural Rome 30K as a part of my training for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. It was a great small, local race with a pretty unique distance that I truly enjoyed running. While I took a break from running it in 2014 (I was out of town that weekend), I returned back in 2015 and 2016 for the new half marathon version of this race.
What, you have never heard of Rome, GA?!? Well, it is a rural area about halfway between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
This year, they kept it as the half marathon distance just as they did last two years along with a 5K and half marathon relay. Last year I didn't exactly have a great experience. With cars on the course, I spent more time frustrated and angry about the cars than enjoying the run. The race did address the issue and worked with police to create "rolling course closures" along the way. With the improvements promised and needing to get a few more half marathons in for my 100th half in March, I opted to go ahead and return back again this year.
I absolutely HATE having to write recaps like this, but I always want to keep it real with y'all so here it goes. As we made our way through the course, a mile in I seriously about lost my mind! The course was OPEN TO TRAFFIC! Yes, seriously. All the talk about how they worked with local police for rolling road closures. Nope. OPEN COURSE.
As a middle of the pack runner (and occasionally back of the pack in smaller races), I have seen some races open parts of the course to cars and runners have had to use the sidewalks. I have also seen races where cars somehow get onto the course. Nope, the course was completely open to traffic!
Want to hear something even worse? You had cars flying past you at 45+mph in this stretch. To make things worse, if you wanted water at the first hydration stop, you had to cross the open lane of traffic to get to the water (see photo below). I even witnessed a runner in front of me pulling their friend out of the way (while on the shoulder) and a car came within inches of her. After having at least 20 cars fly past us, we were not willing to cross that same lane to get to water. I knew then that this could not possibly go well.
There were a few major intersections that had police officers directing traffic flow which I understand - people need to use these roads. However, along the side streets, police officers along the way but they were all just sitting in their cars watching cars drive through the course. I don't know if they were just trying to keep warm instead of being out redirecting cars or if the course was really intended to be open. Regardless, I don't think there was a single runner that was happy. Cars were squeezing by runners, revving engines, blowing horns, and riding dangerously close to runners.
I really enjoyed the portion of the course that took us through Ridge Ferry Park as I could just enjoy nature's beauty and the river that ran along the side of the path. It was a beautiful Fall morning, so it was great to just enjoy the scenery for a few miles...without being scared of getting hit by a car.