It’s been more than 30 years since I moved away from Hickory, and since I left they’ve installed dozens of new hills and a new heating system that worked like a charm today. Ever since I started running and heard that Hickory had a half marathon I wanted to run it, but last year I was sidetracked by the Grand Prix series in Charlotte that has a race on the same weekend. This year I’m skipping Charlotte’s Grand Prix series because of several scheduling conflicts I’ve had, and when Bob Duckworth, who is an old friend from high school as well as general manager of Cheerwine, one of the sponsors of the race, offered me four free entries I jumped at the chance to torture myself for free!
Before the race we met up with some running friends — Sharon Davis from Albemarle and her friend Rita, and also Drew Walker from Greenwood, South Carolina. We also saw Kim Oates from Shelby, who said for some reason she couldn’t talk any of the other Shelby runners into coming over and tackling the hills of Hickory.
Although there were about 600 runners who started the race, there wasn’t much jockeying for position at the starting line and there was plenty of room for anybody wanting to start out up front. Drew Walker, who I had met last year when we were running at virtually the same speed in every race, took off and didn’t look back. In the past six months he’s improved his half marathon time by about 5 minutes, whereas I’m stuck at about the same speed. I kept him in sight for a while but he slowly drifted out of sight. Sharon is a fast runner too and had finished just ahead of me in the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge a couple months ago, where we were neck-and-neck most of the race. This time I didn’t see her after we started running but it turned out she wasn’t far behind me the whole way. She ended up in 1st place in the tough 35-39 female age group out of 43 runners in that group. I was 1st in the 55-59 group, and despite his fast time and finishing 13th overall in the race, Drew finished 3rd in the 50-54 age group thanks to a couple of other real speedsters in the 50-54 age division. I knew early on that this would be a hard race for me and before it was over I had taken 14 walk breaks (I counted them on my Garmin). Although I stopped using the Galloway run/walk method a while back I still like the option of being able to walk when I feel like it’s necessary and today was one of those days.
When it comes to difficult courses, this one takes a back seat to no other race. One Asheville runner I met said it was more difficult than the Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon (I agree). To me it also seemed tougher than the infamous Spencer Mountain 10-miler. It was fun though in its own masochistic way.
This was by far the most organized race we’ve done in the Hickory area. The race started and finished on “The Square” in downtown Hickory and also looped through the square at about the 9-mile mark so friends and family could cheer people coming through and see how they were doing. There was a pre-race pasta dinner on Friday night at the host hotel (Holiday Inn) and a post-race party from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Crawdads stadium where runners got special treatment with a buffet dinner and box seats for the baseball game. We didn’t make it to either the pre-race dinner or the post-race party so I can’t comment, but it’s nice to know they were available for everybody who was able to take advantage of them.
Something interesting that’s done along the course of the Charity Chase HM is that different charities are in charge of each water station and they all compete to see who does the best job according to the runners. After the race the runners can vote for their favorite and the winning water stop charity gets a larger donation. It’s a great way to not only promote their charities but to make sure the water stops run more smoothly, and since they were competing against the other water stops they all did a great job of encouraging the runners as well as providing water, Gatorade, GU, etc.
The goody bags were great and included a nice shopping bag from Fleet Feet Sports of Hickory, one of the nicest tech T-shirts of the year (this race is known for its great T-shirt), a free pair ofBalega socks, as well as some coupons and special offers from some of the sponsors.
The post-race food was fantastic and plentiful, including Cheerwine products (drinks, bottled water, sports drink), a variety of biscuits from Biscuitville (ham, sausage, plain, and even livermush!), bagels and other pastries from Panera, Rita’s Italian ice, and more in addition to fresh fruit (bananas and oranges).
At the awards ceremony all eight runners who have run the race every year since it began (6 years?) were recognized and given special recognition and a running hat. I was happy to see that there were bobble head trophies for the top 3 runners in 5-year age groups as well as bigger trophies for the top 3 overall male and female runners. The trophies were nicely inscribed with all the info you need to remember the race years from now. Mine says: “Charity Chase Half Marathon, 2010, Hickory NC, Age 55-59, First Place.”
It’s a tough race, but well worth it, and one that I’ll look forward to running in the future, and like always, I’ll be glad when it’s over.
7 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
9 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
9 – 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)
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)
5 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 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)
0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
7 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
TOTAL – 101
Age Group: 1 of 9
Overall: 28 of 485 (5.8%)