25/03/2013

The North Carolina Half Marathon, Charlotte, NC…

I have lived and travelled all over the world, and subsequently am in a very privileged position to be able to call upon friends in places such as North Carolina if I wish to run there. And so I did.

Having expanded from running 10s in London, the 10s across the UK, to halves in Europe, the next stage (before the big one to the full mary) would naturally be halves in the US – the land of big bling. So, looking at the alternatives for the Spring break period I eyed the Rock and Roll half in DC, the NYRR half in NY, the Shamrock weekend, but zeroed in on two races that would permit me to have a nice break, see some old friends, and compete in two unique races: The Crescent City Classic in New Orleans, and the second running of the North Carolina Half Marathon in Charlotte. NASCAR COUNTRY!

Okay, first, the Charlotte Speedway race circuit is NOT in Charlotte by any stretch of the imagination. It is in Concord, a $70 cab ride away, with nothing but hotels and fast food franchises lining the road up the stadium. There is nothing else there.

So, checked into the Residence Inn for a night, after a dreadful journey where US Airways managed to overbook both my London-Philly flight (that they then replaced, without asking if this was ok, with a London -Chicago United flight), and then my connection to Charlotte from O’Hare. Luckily, and by some pure luck, or grace of God, I managed to get in ahead of time. Jet lag has always been a problem for me, and I know that it would be a killer unless I got a good night’s sleep on the Friday, with the race being on Sunday.

Hahaha. My body rebelled, I slept badly, and on and off both Friday and Saturday, no matter how many Sam Adams Boston Lagers, and tasty, wonderful Five Guys cheeseburgers I ate. So when it came to it, and by it I mean the 6am start to get up, eat, and then get to the Speedway track for the 7.30am start, I was beaten.

Daylight savings time meant it was pitch dark when I got up, and it was raining hard and cold. A wintry snap has descended on this part of the world and I was in the middle of it. But, let’s talk about the rest of the deal before I talk about the race.

The course.

And so on the course we would run half way around the NASCAR race track, then zigzag around the muddy middle, then out, around the outside of the stadium, over and up and down the drag strip, before back, over a walk bridge, around the other half of the outside of the stadium, then in, a zig, a zag through the middle, and then around the other half of the NASCAR race track to the end. Simple enough, or so I thought.

The EXPO

Ok, it was small, as was the race itself, but this was only the second running of the race, and it can only get bigger and better. I am used to vast races at the moment. Paris was 40,000 people and an EXPO that included promoters for other races, products, anything running related. Here we had one running gear store, and precious little else. Not that it was needed.

The Race

7.30am is very early to start. I do like the idea of early races, as then the rest of the day is free. Also, if the venue is used for other things, then it does not disrupt people for too much of their day. But 7.30am a week or two after Daylight Savings? It meant it was dark when I got up, very dark, and the raceway was floodlit when we lined up in the torrential rain to start the race.

And, in true patriotic style, we had a revving NASCAR, and then the national anthem, hats off in the brief break in the rain, and hands on hearts to get the juices flowing before the starting gun.

I had trouble with this race, although I started spiritedly and enjoyed a good pace for the first 8KM or so before the sideways rain and, at times hail, made me question my sanity after choosing to fly for 12 hours, across 5 time zones, 36 hours before a half.I did walk, but the pace was very slow.While there were a few elite runners, this was a local race, for local people with a love of NASCAR. It is gasoline alley. When trying to sleep I put on the TV and 2 out of every 3 adverts were for car dealerships, or new gas guzzling vehicles.

The pace was slow, the runners, a lot less than I thought would be there, stretched and bunched, and there were a lot of walkers. A lot of people clearly hadn’t trained, yours truly included, but I just ran TW1/2 and Paris 1/2 a week apart, and this made it 3 halves in 4 weeks without training, so I was ok, however, in the end I finished with my worst half time by some margin, but with the weather, and how bad I feel after travelling, I was proud to finish.

Would I run the North Carolina Half Marathon again? I do not think so. However, I would recommend it as a race, purely for the venue. And the bling! Oh my, the bling was choice! The middle oval spins, and the lights on the side track down like the starting lights at a NASCAR track. Stunning. Truly stunning. New Orleans on Saturday is gonna have to be something special to top this medal.

And the Tech Tee was very good too. As was the reward of a second trip to Five Guys, where I met two Charlotte firemen who had just run the Spartan race. I had congratulation, they asked how it was, I said cold, I asked them how it was, they said they would tell me when they could feel something again. LOL

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