The Vulcan Run is one of Alabama’s premier running events and one of the most popular 10k races in the Southeast. It was also the third race in the Running Journal Grand Prix series so naturally I thought it made sense to travel the 375 miles one way to Birmingham, Alabama, rather than to run the popular Dowd YMCA race this year in Charlotte.
We woke up Friday morning, packed our bags, and headed south on I-85. Things were going smoothly and we hoped to arrive in Birmingham early in the afternoon so we would have a little time to explore the town. About 30 miles north of Atlanta our plans were rudely interrupted when an uninvited piece of plywood decided to jump off the truck in front of us and join us instead. Before we had time to react, the full force of the plywood smacked directly into the front of our car and a fraction of a second later it smashed the windshield into a thousand pieces. Linda and I were both in shock and covered with broken glass fragments. I spent a few seconds just trying to figure out if we were injured or not, and surprisingly, neither of us had a scratch. Thankfully, the cars surrounding us in the heavy Atlanta Friday traffic slowed down and allowed us to get to the side of the road. After a couple hours of dealing with police reports and the insurance company, we continued on our way in a rental car. The hotel and race fees were all paid in advance so we figured it made sense to go ahead with our plans. We can deal with the wrecked car once everything’s fixed.
We stayed at The Tutwiler Hotel, a historic old hotel that has been converted to a Hampton Inn. It’s a really nice hotel, although kind of expensive, but just being a block from the start and finish of the race it was perfect for us. We were able to take advantage of the free Hampton Inn breakfast before the race, then after the race we were both able to take a shower and change clothes before the awards and post-race activities, which were held in the Boutwell Auditorium.
The elevation profile map looked a little scary for the first three miles, but in actuality it didn’t seem as bad as it looks on the map. The first two miles were actually pretty flat. I looked down at my Garmin and the end of the first mile and it read 6:32. The second mile had a bit more of an uphill incline and I slowed down a few seconds to 6:42. As you can tell from the map, the third mile had a fairly long, steep hill. It was my slowest mile of the race at 7:25 but I was really happy that I ran the entire hill as opposed to taking one or two walk breaks as I’ve usually done in the past. In the fourth mile, which had some rolling hills, I finally did take a walk break, but instead of my normal 20-seconds this time I only walked for about 12 seconds before getting back to business. It was my only walk break of the race. The last two miles had quite a bit of downhill and I finished those at 6:33 and 6:37. My final time was 42:31, a 6:51 pace, which was 2nd place in my age group and 74th overall of 1750 finishers.
I’m not sure how long this race has been held, but one runner I talked to had run it 30 years ago, in 1979. Over the years they’ve apparently worked out most of the kinks and it seemed like one of the most well organized races we’ve run. Post-race activities were held in the auditorium with plenty of food (Mexican food, ice cream, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, beer, Coca Cola, etc.). The open auditorium floor was filled with tables and chairs to give the runners a place to sit, talk, and eat as the results were being compiled. There were cash prizes for the top overall runners and custom made medals for the age group winners. The T-shirts were some of the best ever: Zorrel Dri-Balance technical shirts featuring the Vulcan Run logo, with the only drawback being that they’re short-sleeved (winter’s coming… I need some long-sleeved shirts!).
8 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
4 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
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)
4 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
6 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities