White Rock Gridlock

If you have someplace important to be on Sunday, take note: The 2003 White Rock Marathon is seriously going to screw up traffic patterns that morning, and the endless line of runners may not end until the early afternoon, depending on which part of town you happen to be stuck in. For the most part, the marathon course politely sticks to residential neighborhoods and scenic areas like the namesake lake and Turtle Creek. For years the residents who live on Cornell Avenue in Highland Park, McCommas Boulevard, Ellsworth Avenue and Lakeshore Drive have been great sports about having their streets taken over by the endless stream of marathoners. Most of them sit on their lawns to watch and cheer; some use it as an excuse to start drinking early, and a few even hand out water to runners. But inevitably there's always that grumpy old man in his beat-up pickup truck stuck on Skillman Street honking his horn to no avail. Skillman south of Mockingbird Lane is a route best avoided. Greenville Avenue is shut down between McCommas and Ellsworth. Lemmon Avenue between Oak Lawn Avenue and Central Expressway also not a smart option. Anywhere along Swiss Avenue: Don't even think about it. So check the marathon's Web site to make sure you don't get stuck.

If you planned on using the same escape route you used last year, think again because a half-marathon has been added this year that will bisect the full course and travel south down Matilda, east on Goliad and south on Skillman to Swiss. So if you live south of Ellsworth, east of Goliad and north of Swiss, you're essentially trapped at home for the greater part of the day. You might as well admit defeat and call the marathon's volunteer hotline and find out how you can contribute to the traffic problems.

But if you happen to be one of those pedestrians who gets a kick out of watching pissed-off people sitting in traffic, then you might want to take some lawn chairs over to the corner of Lemmon Avenue and Turtle Creek Boulevard where the backup tends to get especially nasty. Or if you want to see a bunch of old Baptist ladies make some rather un-Christian gestures, then hang out around Ross Street underneath the Central Expressway overpass as the morning service at the First Baptist Church of Dallas lets out.

Participants in the marathon cover a wide range of ages, sizes and fitness levels. There are wheelchair athletes and a Clydesdale division for men weighing more than 200 pounds and the Athena for women over 160 pounds. A handful of Freaky Fast Franks will finish in less than three hours and are in Dallas running "The Rock" only to qualify for the Boston Marathon in April. Or there are the Polite Plodding Paulas who decided that if Oprah and Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/whatever can run a marathon, then they can, too, even if it takes them eight-plus hours to do so. So plan your Sunday-morning route carefully, prepare to perform some creative curb jumping or give up and cheer the runners on as they pass near your house.

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Jay Webb

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