The happiest place on Earth, according to Susan Rancourt, cofounder and CEO of Rhode Races, is the finish line of a marathon. Runners who have put their bodies through grueling training for months or even years to complete one of the most challenging feats in modern athletics are, suddenly, done.
“I know we’ve had a lot of snow, and the weather’s been tough,” says Rancourt. “But try to get outside. It’ll be helpful to be familiar with running along the roads.”
For the 3,000 runners set to join the eleventh Providence Marathon on May 6, the elegant 26.2-mile loop from Fox Point out to Barrington and back to Downtown Providence is particularly rewarding. Crossing the finish line, runners enjoy the thrill of achievement along with a well-earned selection of Rhody munchables from Pizzoni’s, Knead Doughnuts, and the RI Brewer’s Guild.
Like a Michelin-starred restaurant or an NCAA-bound hoops team, marathons have become a symbol of a community’s ambition. With runners hailing from all 50 states and 18 different countries, Providence’s race has begun to establish itself on the national stage as a major qualifier for the premier Boston Marathon.
The race may close a few streets, but its impact outlasts any minor inconveniences, as hundreds of local high school students raise thousands of dollars for programs like Dreamfar High School Marathon and Girls on the Run.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding part of the race,” says Rancourt, adding that the race has helped raise $40,000 for its non-profit partners.
The entire event has quickly grown to represent the best of what athletics can offer. As thousands of runners endure an Odyssean test of strength, perseverance, and courage, the rest of us marvel at what our friends and neighbors are capable of. The race connects us to a timeless tradition and reminds us of the power of a single step, as weary runners stumble across a finish line, suddenly victorious.