Saturday, December 13, 2008

Race #14 – Thunder Road Half Marathon – Charlotte NC – 12/13/08

It’s the biggest race in the Charlotte area, this year with about 7,000 participants in the marathon, half marathon, and 5k combined. I just started running about four months ago (Labor Day Weekend) and have run in a 5k race each week since then, so I was a little nervous about this race since I was running in a half marathon for the first time. I was kind of secretly hoping to finish in under 2 hours but I knew that would be a best case scenario since I had never even run 13.1 miles, even in training (my longest long run has been 12 miles about 3 weeks ago). Anyhoo, I finished in 2:01:05 (chip time), and that includes about a 2-minute bathroom stop at mile 8, so I’m pretty happy about that. Maybe next time I can drink less before the race or run a little faster; either way it gives me a number to shoot for.
It’s kind of like apples and oranges trying to compare a race with 7,000 runners with a race of maybe a couple hundred (and sometimes less than 100). It’s easy to get lost in the crowd if you like that sort of thing, and the thought crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get trampled if I happened to slip and fall. Luckily that didn’t happen.
I had been doing my long runs each week very slowly at an 11-minute pace, which is what I read I should do to avoid injury, and that seems to have worked fine. I was pretty sure I could run the half marathon at that pace but, as I told my wife Linda, I’d rather just crash and burn than to run at that pace the whole race so I figured I’d just run at a pace that seemed comfortable, and if I ran out of gas before the end I’d just walk… or crawl… or possibly be carried off. I’ve been doing the Jeff Galloway run-walk sometimes in the 5k races and considered adding some walking breaks when I was tired, but I felt good for the first 8 miles and didn’t do any walking at all until my bathroom break, then in the last 2 or 3 miles I walked a couple times for a minute or so.
Oh… I also forgot to turn off the Garmin at the finish line so that 14th lap is a little long, but 2:01:05 was my official chip time.
All in all, it was a fun experience but there were a couple of major issues we ran into that I wouldn’t expect in a race of this magnitude…
Issue #1: There was some possibly decent food after the race but it was all situated in the corral where all the runners finished. There were hundreds of people just trying to make their way out of this area where you couldn’t even walk, and I had just run 13.1 miles… give me a second to catch my breath before I start eating, okay? There were so many people in this area that it was all you could do to get out as dozens of runners were finishing every minute, but once you got out they wouldn’t let you back in to get to the food. They had a whole block between the finish line and the entrance to the Convention Center where the food could have been located. This area was completely empty. Not to mention the huge area inside the Convention Center where the race Expo was held, where people could have stayed warm and celebrated a little and gotten some food afterwards. So we ended up going to a restaurant instead of mingling with the post-race crowd, which is all you could do if you were hungry after running half the morning.
Issue #2: We registered at the Expo the evening before the race, and when my wife signed up for the 5k she was told that they were out of chips but that “it would be taken care of at the finish line.” Huh? I’m new at this but I’ve been around long enough to know that in a race this size nobody’s writing your name or number down at the finish line. So I went back with Linda to the registration booth to make sure that’s what they told her and they matter-of-factly informed me that it’s no problem and that they would handle it. Of course they didn’t, and when Linda crossed the finish line there was no record of it (how could there be?). Her time wasn’t in the top 3 in her age group, but if it had been it would have been a pretty big deal, at least to her. Her name didn’t show up among the finishers at all, and when she went to the people who were recording the times, of course they were busy with the 7,000 or so finishers who were wearing chips and didn’t have time for the people who weren’t wearing chips. That’s understandable, but dude, if you run out of chips stop taking people’s money. Just say you’ve got x number of chips and that’s how many people can be in the race. If you come after that you’re out of luck. That just happens to be my wife, but how many more dozens or maybe even hundreds of people signed up and didn’t get a chip and basically there was no record of them being in the race?
6 – 4/6 Number of Participants (4 for less than 100; 6 for 100 or more)
9 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, stating winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
1 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
6 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
6 – 4/6 Online Registration (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No) (uh… yes and no… see above)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
7 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
2 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 3/7 Age Groups (7 if 5-year groups; 3 if 10-year groups)
7 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0 – 1-10 Other
TOTAL – 81