OK, so we like to slap the “Rocket City” label on our events around here. Nobody’s begrudging that.
Heck, we’ve even bestowed it on a professional baseball team, right? The Rocket City Trash Pandas are, best we can figure, the only minor league team in existence that has two different nicknames in its title.
That brings us to this month, and two Rocket City-tagged events - two of Huntsville’s biggest and most prestigious sporting events, in fact.
Rocket City Marathon
The Rocket City Marathon is Saturday, Dec. 14. It’s been a fixture here since the late 1970s, and it’s one of the signature events for the Huntsville Track Club. The marathon includes an all-day Expo at the Von Braun Center on Dec. 13, as well as some ancillary races.
There is a half-marathon, where runners can join the full field and tackle the last half of the course, a relay and, on Friday, a one-mile run for kids who have qualified for the race by logging at least 25.2 miles during a 10-12 week training course in advance of the marathon.
Appropriately, a few years ago the Rocket City Marathon course was changed to include the rocket. Through much of its history, it meandered from downtown through south Huntsville, including what seemed an endless stretch down Bailey Cove. The new course encompasses the historic neighborhoods of downtown Huntsville, Five Points and Dallas Mill, then passes by the starting line at the Von Braun Center and on to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, through the Huntsville Botanical Garden, and back to downtown.
The Huntsville Track Club is a volunteer-driven organization that, to apply a track metaphor, has deftly passed the baton of leadership internally, whether it be in the overall operation of the club or in meet directors, such as the husband-wife tandem of Dewayne and Dana Debardelaben, who assumed that role with the Rocket City Marathon in 2018.
The club administers or assists with two dozen races each year, closing out 2019 with the Recover From The Holidays 50K on New Year’s Eve morning at John Hunt Park. To realize that members of the Huntsville Track Club choose their “recovery” as a 50-kilometer (roughly 31 miles) demonstrates that they probably aren’t recovering from nearly as many Christmas dinner leftovers as the rest of us.
Rocket City Classic
A weekend later, Saturday, Dec. 21 brings the Rocket City Classic basketball doubleheader at the VBC’s Propst Arena. To take a more unique approach, the basketball event has one alternate logo that suggests a severe shortage of vowels in Huntsville. Knight Eady, the Birmingham-based sports event company that presents the Classic, occasionally presents it as the RKT CTY Classic.
For the fourth consecutive year, the University of Alabama basketball team is making a Huntsville appearance, this time hosting Belmont University, a mid-major powerhouse out of Nashville, at 2 p.m. The UAH Chargers host Mobile’s Spring Hill College at noon.
The basketball extravaganza has turned into something of a quadruple-header. On Friday night, Dec. 20, there will be a pair of high school basketball games, with Montgomery’s Robert E. Lee facing Mae Jemison, followed by Huntsville High vs. Bob Jones in the second game. Tickets the Rocket City Classic are available at the VBC, but there are no advance sales for the high school games.
Both events will bring thousands of spectators and participants to downtown, as well as hundreds of visitors from out of town, and they’ll certainly take advantage of shopping and restaurant options. Both weekends should be, to borrow from the Knight Eady logo, TRLY SPTCLR for Huntsville.