The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the location of this amazing race. By car, this race is about 55 miles from my house. I have never run it before, and have to ask myself why. It was an amazing day, incredible race and had an awesome community feel about it.
The Triangle region of NC, encompasses Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Geographically forming the shape of a triangle, this area has grown and grown the past 30 years. In large part, this is due to the Research Triangle Park. I moved here for work 15 years ago, and have never regretted it. Chapel Hill is the furthest of the major cities here from where I live. Maybe that is the reason why I haven’t yet run this race. I guess it’s that, and the fact that I have run other races in years past on the day of this event. Last year, for example, the Tarheel Ten Miler was on the same day as the Blue Ridge Marathon which I ran in Roanoke, VA.
Deciding to give this race a chance this year, I was thoroughly impressed. My only pet peeve about the race was that they do not offer race morning packet pick up. That is something that is really annoying to me. I won’t banter on and on about it, but caused me to have to drive an extra 80 miles yesterday, and spend an additional two hours in the car. Not a fan of that. I really think that this race could reach a broader runner participation if they offered same day bib pick up. My two cents.
With that said, parking was a complete breeze on the campus of UNC. I did get held up in traffic for about 15 minutes, but I left myself plenty of time for traffic tie ups, so it wasn’t a big deal or have any impact on my race. I arrived at a parking lot at 6:25am, for the 7:30 start. Plenty of time to relax, hydrate and make my way through campus to the bell tower where the start of the race was located.
Folks lined up in two lanes. There is also a 4 mile race, so those folks lined up on the opposite side of the street from us. After our National Anthem, the 4 miles took off. Five minutes prior to the 10 mile race. We started right on time, and made our way through the beautiful campus and streets of a Chapel Hill. A rolling course, there were certainly challenges. Many hills, and difficult ones to boot. Portions of this course reminded me of the Blue Ridge Marathon course, so I tried to summon thoughts from last year to help get me over the hills.
There were 6,200 runners signed up for the two races combined. The course spread out quickly, and it just didn’t ever feel like there were that many people running. That is a good thing. I tried to run my race, and not anyone else’s. This was very important to me today, as the size of the field could have influenced my pace quite a bit. I didn’t let it happen. I actually went out a bit slower than I usually do, but I didn’t have any time goals established in my head other than wanting to be faster than an 8:30 per mile pace. You see, I was trying to take it easy on myself, and my aching hamstrings. I have a marathon next weekend, so this race I was just considering my final long run. No need to hurry, right? It would be a PR regardless since I had never raced this distance before. I knew I couldn’t go wrong, other than overdoing it. I made my way.
I actually didn’t feel that loose this morning, and struggled with stomach issues before I left the house. I really wasn’t feeling that great those first few miles. I was instantly amazed though by how pretty the course was. I’ve never spent much time on the campus at all, so it was really all new to me. It was beautiful! We are in full on Spring mode, too, so blooms abounded. Leaves on all the trees filling in nicely, azaleas in full bloom, dogwoods everywhere. It was just an amazingly pretty day to run, with clear blue skies, as well. Temps were in the low to mid 50’s when the race began.
After the 5k mark, I started getting looser. I guess I was just easing into the race, and not letting anything bother me. Due to the amount of runners, there was always someone I was passing, or someone passing me. I got used to it quick. It’s not like I was out there to win the race, or even try to place in my age group. I was trying to treat this race like a training run. I was succeeding. The course was ultra challenging with hills. I kept even pace. At the half way point, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t running a marathon. I could try to maintain my early pace longer, and probably get away with it. It’s just been so long since I’ve run a race under 26.2 miles, that this was kind of new territory for me. Plus the new race distance. I felt like I was staying competitive, and getting in a good run.
At about the seven mile mark, I started to think about the challenging finish. It’s called Laurel Hill, and is extremely challenging. That stretch has gained notoriety for the difficulty of it. The race actually puts a timing mat at the start of it, and at the end of it, and awards bragging rights for those that conquer it the fastest. I don’t have my result on that split time yet. As I got closer to it, I think it was less intimidating to me because I have run some mountainous races like Blue Ridge. I was hard, don’t get me wrong, but I certainly never walked. Many people did, or at least took walk breaks. I passed many folks on this challenging uphill finishing section.
Just after Laurel Hill, is the finish. A short distance now, with a little weaving into Kenan Stadium, where UNC Football is played. The finish line comes into view, and it’s a sprint to the finish in front of the crowds of spectators. It was totally cool to finish in the stadium. I gave it my best. I crossed the line, feeling really good. Happy with my pace, happy with how my hamstrings held up.
Gun Time 1:18:21
Chip Time 1:18:01
Overall pace of 7:48 ( very pleased)
As of right now, results are not final. My preliminary results show me at 377/3797 overall, and 50/244 in AG. Top 10% finish for a new race, and new distance? Yep, very happy with that. I filed around the stadium with other runners, picking up water, banana, pretzels and gummi bears. Snacks and water were plentiful. The medal is totally cool, and very unique. Let me know what you think of it!
Overall it really was an amazing event. So smooth, well organized. Even though there were 6,000 plus signed up, I never felt too crowded, or rushed. It was a nearly perfect day in a Chapel Hill today, and a race to remember. I walked away today, not sore, not limping, and feeling pretty fresh. I didn’t leave it all on the course today, but that was never my intent. I feel like I got a good run in, among thousands of my running friends, and will be ready for the 26.2 next Sunday. It was a fun event, and I certainly recommend it to anyone considering running it one day.