The famous Broadway honky tonks have launched the careers of many country music legends. The Grand Ole Opry is an institution like no other. The Ryman Auditorium is known as the cathedral of country music. The recently built Country Music Hall of Fame in the heart of downtown pays tribute to the history of country music.
The CMM (as we in the inner circle like to call the event) was created with all of this in mind. The event needed to live up to the Music City moniker. Great music from start to finish for the runners, spectators, volunteers and race staff was a requirement. Every participant should leave with a high from running and the sensational entertainment. This musical marathon has not failed to deliver.
Where stars are made
On the course, you never know what you will get, and in Nashville you are probably getting more than expected. Musicians are not just out there to play for the runners -- they are playing for their futures. There could be a music industry executive in the race, in the press truck or working the water station, looking for the next big thing. This has come to fruition more than once.
Dierks Bentley played on the course for two years. Now he is one of the biggest names in country music as he embarks on his first headlining tour.
Julie Roberts worked as a secretary for a record label in Nashville, and she performed on the CMM course for a couple of years. Since then she has had several top ten hits, and she just released another successful CD.
"I started playing the marathon when I was a student at Belmont," says Roberts. "I thought the Country Music Marathon was so neat because there was a different band at every mile marker."
Although she is now touring all over the US, Julie said that the race was one of the most unique gigs she'd ever played. "It's the playing for a different crowd every second of your set that makes it so different!"
"The Country Music Marathon is such a special event," Julie stated. "I've been to other marathons as a spectator, and the CMM is so exciting and fun. The entertainment set up at each mile makes it special for not only the runners but those there just to cheer on the runners." Having Julie Roberts on stage was also a special treat.
Big and Rich have created quite a stir in the music business with their infamous Musik Mafia. Just a few years ago, Big Kenny and John Rich were singing their hearts out for thousands from the finish line stage. A couple of years later they had a number one hit.
"We were not even Big and Rich then -- we were small and broke," John Rich and Big Kenny said, looking back upon their stint as one of the Finish Line Bands for the 2002 event.
At the time, Big Kenny was in the band LovJoi, and John Rich was billed as a special guest. These wild guys took the stage at The Coliseum and put on one of their famous high energy shows, making thousands of weary and happy runners laugh, dance and sometimes run away. Of their experience, Big and Rich said, "It was fabulous."
Known as the Wild bunch meets the Rat pack, Big and Rich and their entourage always get the audience involved in their show. Naturally, Big Kenny tried to grab the runners' attention, "I had a megaphone, and I was screaming out to the runners, 'Hey you! Hey you!' I mean, they were exhausted. They just ran 26 miles."
Big names doing big things
Then there's the post-race concert. The list of headlining acts for the Country Music Marathon is a "who's who" in country music. The names include Martina McBride, JoDee Messina, Brad Paisley, Diamond Rio, Phil Vassar and the gambler himself, Kenny Rogers.
The Country Music Marathon has not only helped up-and-comers become country music superstars, but it has also inspired country music legends to become runners. The members of Diamond Rio attended the race the year they were scheduled to perform at the post race concert. They held the finish line tape and cheered on the thousands of runners who followed.
"I have fond memories of the winning athlete running around the tape and not through it," Jimmy Olander recalls. "I also was a little envious of all the people that had completed a major accomplishment together. You could see the pride and overwhelming emotion on the faces of people crossing the line.
Two years later, they created Team Rio -- a group of marathoners and half marathoners who have raised money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The team includes Diamond Rio band members Marty Roe and Jimmy Olander.
"The concert was a party for sure. It was a telling tale to see the winners of the men's race have to be pushed up the ramp to get on stage and get their prize money. These guys left nothing on the course."
"It was great," adds Marty Roe. "It was one of the more fun concerts we have done in Nashville -- a great group of folks with surprisingly a great deal of energy!"
To see the Music City, you need to Run Music City. Yes, it is Music City -- from start to finish. Come on down to Nashville on April 28th. Enjoy the race, enjoy the city and most of all enjoy the music.
The Country Music Marathon & Half Marathon is part of the Elite Racing musical marathon series. Runners and walkers are treated to music every mile, great cheer and spectator support, professional operations, a state-of-the-art expo, a finish line party and a headliner Concert. The half marathon is limited to 18,000 participants.
To register or for more information, contact Elite Racing Inc. at 800.311.1255 or visit www.cmmarathon.com.