The Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon—All-American Races In an All-American City
The resurgent All-American city of Birmingham, Alabama is home for the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon, races riding traditions of quality in a great city. Birmingham and these events symbolize power, energy, health, and industry. And, oh yes, every entrant has a chance to win a Mercedes M-Class. The marathon is fast, and an ideal drive for Boston.
Posted Monday, 1 November, 2004
The Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon are the dream races for every long distance runner. These outstanding events are exceptionally well organized, and run at a perfect time of year in Alabama. The races blast off simultaneously at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, February 13. Participants will enjoy this outstanding marathon, and the lively pulse and beat of Birmingham, a dynamic destination. Experienced runners will rely on it as their best possible chance to qualify for the BAA Boston Marathon. Rookies will realize their first marathon experience--nearly guaranteed to be completely terrific. Your finisher’s medal, a heavy replica of the famous Mercedes hood ornament, will be a keepsake for a lifetime.
The events in Birmingham offer a wonderful destination, and the four races offer options for all. Marathon runners can qualify for Boston (good for either the 2005 or 2006 Boston Marathon) or speed to a personal best. This could be your year. In a region known for great sporting events, this one is a terrific part of that athletic legacy.
Marathon and More
There are four major events associated with marathon weekend: The 26.2-mile classic Mercedes Marathon, the five-person Marathon Relay, the Mercedes Half Marathon, and the Kids’ Marathon. The Kids’ Marathon will be held on Saturday, with the other three racing on Sunday, February 13. The kids will complete the final portion of the marathon course, and will finish at the same finish line as the big event. The Mercedes Marathon has a lot of class, and that is fitting. For a unique running experience, inquire about the Marathon Relay Blind Date program.
With $21,000 in prize money, these events will draw some of the best runners from across the nation and around the world. The Olympic Marathon Trials, held here last February, was a separate course. But in this race all participants will race on the same course at the same time as the world’s best.
In February of 2004 there were 2,072 finishers in the half marathon, and 1,020 in the marathon. The event has grown, and there is a field limit—as with so many popular marathons these days--so be sure to register early so you won’t be shut out. Registration for all four events is available on line through February 8 (10:00 p.m. Pacific Time). You may also print a mail-in registration form on the Website, which must be postmarked by January 20th, 2005. If openings remain, there will be registration available at the Race Expo on Friday and Saturday, February 11 and 12, through 7:00 p.m. Number and chip pickup by pre-registered entrants will be available during the same hours. Please note there will be no race day registration or number pickup.
The courses for both the marathon and the half marathon are fast and scenic. Temperature is almost guaranteed to be ideal for long distance racing, with the average high at 58, and the average low at 37. These races offer much more than a fast course. Both the marathon and half marathon take runners on scenic loops—the marathon course closes at six hours, and the half marathon at four hours.
Win a Mercedes M-Class
How is this for an opportunity? Some lucky "official finisher" will leave the Mercedes Marathon with a brand new Mercedes M-Class or equivalent vehicle (there may be another by the first of the year, or a new name), a gift from the title sponsor. The M-Class vehicles are built in Vance, Alabama, just a few miles southwest of Birmingham on Interstate 59. It is the only US plant for Mercedes-Benz, and factory tours are very popular. There is a visitor center and a museum housing vintage cars, including racing, sports, luxury, and concept autos. Displays at the Mercedes-Benz International Visitors Center (One Mercedes Drive, Vance) show the history of the company, which began as a motorcycle manufacturer over a century ago. Even if you don’t go home with the car, you will have that Mercedes medal to mark your achievement. Check it out at www.bamabenz.com.
Facilities and Amenities
Marathon Headquarters is the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, located adjacent to the Civic Arena at 2101 Richard Arrington Boulevard North. The hotel has 779 units within 16 stories. The starting line is adjacent to the Sheraton, and the finish is only three blocks away.
Support will be everywhere on the course. There will be fluid stations at each mile, and each mile is clearly marked, and will have a digital clock. Some stations will include petroleum jelly, ibuprofen, fruit, cookies, energy bars and gels, cheerleaders, and live entertainment.
Cash prizes will be awarded to open and masters’ runners in both the marathon and half marathon, beginning with a $3,000 award for first places in the marathon; they go five deep in the Marathon open, and three deep for marathon masters, and half marathon open and masters. Cash prizes will also be given for the first woman and man from Alabama in both races, as well as a unique cash prize for the oldest finisher in the marathon.
All pre-registered runners will receive a marathon or half marathon long sleeve T-shirt, and the post race food and refreshments will be memorable, as in past years. Unique medals in the famous shape of a Mercedes hood ornament will be awarded for marathoners and half marathoners.
The City of Birmingham
Birmingham is a true renaissance city, and symbolizes the dynamism of the region. It is the youngest and largest of Alabama’s cities, founded in 1871. Originally established as an industrial center, to take advantage of iron ore and coal and other natural resources, today Birmingham reflects the growth and innovation that have marked the emergence of the area as an industrial and technological powerhouse. The dynamic nature of this emerging destination city is visible everywhere. Medical education, research, and technology are a large segment of modern Birmingham’s business and character. It is also a center for scientific, financial, and technological industries; and the skyline and cleanliness of beautiful modern-day Birmingham reflects this economy.
It is truly a city of Middle America. It is approximately the same longitude as Chicago, Indianapolis, and Nashville. It is the same latitude as Atlanta (100 miles away), and also the same as Dallas-Fort Worth.
And Alabama is right in the middle of the USA when it comes to population (4,447,000--27th), and territory (51,998 square miles—29th).
Birmingham is a city of action, and of industry. It has all the advantages of a large, great city, but retains the feel of a friendly small town.
And there is a lot to do. Birmingham is home to many unique museums and institutions, including the Jazz Hall of Fame, and the Sports Hall of Fame, along with the Museum of Art, and the Civil Rights Institute and Civil Rights District, the McWane Center, Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, and Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, just to name a few. There is a long list of parks and libraries in the immediate area.
If shopping appeals to anyone in the traveling party, check out the city’s Five Points South district, an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and nightspots, a top entertainment district and a terrific place to observe people of all types. The ridges that run northeast to southwest in the region, the southern-southwestern terminus of the Appalachian chain, make a beautiful city even more scenic.
Vulcan, God of Fire
On the summit of the northeast ridge of Red Mountain, a long ridge just south of downtown, stands the Vulcan Statue, one of the largest iron figures in the world. It is approximately two miles from the marathon start and finish. The statue itself stands 55 feet and weighs 60 tons, and sits atop a masonry pedestal that is another 127 feet surrounded by Vulcan Park. Vulcan was the Roman god of fire and the forge. The statue was erected 100 years ago, created for 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. That Exposition was also home to the 1904 Olympics, the third of the modern era.
Birmingham sits in the middle of a beautiful region. North and east are gorgeous wild regions with cliffs, mesas, waterfalls, canyons, and caverns. Visitors can explore an area that includes some of the best spelunking anywhere (Sequoyah and DeSoto Caverns). Directly east of Birmingham is the beautiful Talladega National Forest, which contains chalk-white cliffs and Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in the state.
Further north, the valleys of the Appalachians hold the powerful Tennessee River, stretching for 200 miles east to west across the state before being turned north again by the ridges, bound for the Mississippi. Some of the largest dams and lakes of the Tennessee and the TVA are in Alabama. Huntsville is located there, famous as the home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, where Alabama joins the exploration of the final frontier. Take the kids there and explore the simulators, experience landing on the moon or Mars. This place was integral to the US moon missions.
And Alabama is like a small continent. It is the terminus of the Blue Ridge and Appalachians, as well as the Cumberland Plateau. Mid-state plains and meandering river valleys—home for industry, recreation, and agriculture—run all the way to the bright white sands of the Gulf of Mexico.
Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Huntsville, and Tuskegee, are all part of a region that resonates with history and diversity.
Not far from Birmingham’s downtown, just 12 miles south-southeast of the center of town, is beautiful Oak Mountain State Park, 9,940 acres of enjoyment. It is a runner’s paradise, an ideal place to get in some tune up miles before the race, or to enjoy some relaxing miles to rebuild after the event. There are miles of soft trails to choose from. Also available here: golfing, horseback riding, fishing, boating, hiking, and mountain biking (really terrific).
Four Interstate highways intersect within Birmingham. Interstate-20 runs east and west, and I-65 bisects the state north and south. I –59 heads northeast to southwest, paralleling the ridges from Chattanooga to New Orleans, and I-459 links the other three. The Civic Center and Sheraton are near the intersection of I-20, I-59, and I-65. Birmingham International Airport is only 3.5 miles from the Sheraton and the Civic Center, and the Amtrak station is only blocks away.
Do It with Class
Whether the goal is Boston, a PR, fundraising, or simply to experience the marathon or half marathon, Birmingham is the place to be on the second Sunday of February. Feel the energy. Feel the power. Feel the drive.
Mercedes-Benz and Birmingham symbolize innovation from the Industrial Revolution to the Running Revolution. The roads of Birmingham and the route of the Mercedes Marathon traverse that history. Southern ingenuity, forged and tested from the steel mills to the latest in medical technology, is alive and well. It is demonstrated in the innovative and inventive races of the Mercedes Marathon weekend, and in the community at large. The Mercedes Marathon mirrors the city and its dynamic energy. Visit the region, observe Vulcan, and forge your own personal victory in the marathon or half-marathon.