Why Virginia Beach’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is running out of town

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It was first reported this month that Virginia Beach is losing one of the biggest running events, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Virginia Beach Half Marathon. 

It has been a Labor Day weekend tradition at the Oceanfront.  

But when the organization made the announcement that the tradition was ending, it didn’t include a why.

10 On Your Side caught up with Virginia Beach Hotel Association President John Zirkle who said the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon has run its course.

“Unfortunately, I think things come to an end at times. Attendance has been dwindling over the years. I think initially they were at 25,000 and now it dropped down to less than 15,000 runners and a lot of them are locals,” he said.

Zirkle remembers 2001, which was the first year of the half marathon. A South African runner was the first male winner. A California runner became the first female winner. 

“That first year the energy was just electric. You had goosebumps when they were sending racers off; the bands were playing and everything,” he said.

However, lower attendance means a lower number of rented hotel rooms. 

“We negotiate with groups like that because they are going to promise to fill so many rooms, so you give them a lower rate, and they guarantee those people are coming rain or shine,” Zirkle explained.

Now, those rooms aren’t filled, so hotels don’t get the room income.

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“Labor Day weekend, next to Memorial Day and Fourth of July, it’s the busiest weekend that we have, and we would hold rooms for the half marathon attendees and such,” Zirkle said.  

The organizers did not return an email request for comment, but Zirkle says he knows what’s going on.

“At the end of the day, the Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers need to make money and they need the registration to make it work,” he said.

Here’s another issue: the numbers are down in Virginia Beach because, according to the race website, there are 21 races including 15 in America and six in foreign countries.  

Zirkle weighs in on that.

“There are so many, it doesn’t have that bang it had initially. We still have the bands, still had the course, and the music, and everything, but you don’t have as many people. I’m confident the city will work out something to replace the race with something; we just don’t know what,” he said.

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