The Bull City Race Fest is an amazing event, and was held for the third time in Durham, NC, on October 18, 2015. The event includes a 1 mile, 5 mile, and signature Half marathon distance race. It is truly an amazing event, that has gained popularity each year.
This race has it all! It is very family friendly, and one that I would recommend to any runner looking for a world class running experience. Everything from the ease of packet pick up and expo, to the post race food truck rodeo and relaxing finisher village. The highlight though in my eyes, is the race itself. The course, with all of its hilly challenges, is both scenic and exciting.
This race was both a recovery run from my Chicago Marathon a week ago, and my final longish training run for the New York City Marathon just 12 days away. The perfect way to run this race for me was to be a pacer! The opportunity to pace it didn’t come until just a few days before the race itself. I quickly jumped on it, and signed up my son to pace, as well. This would be his first time pacing, and probably around my 10th time pacing a Half. The best part? Pacing together as Dad and Son. In the same pace group, pacing the 8:30 (or finish time of 1:51:25). Two years ago I paced the 1:45:00 finish group, so I knew the challenge of the course, and knew that we could both easily handle the job.
Race morning went off without a hitch. Parking was easy and we made it to the starting line for some pre-race photos with the pace team members at 6:50am. The race was to begin at 7:30, so we had a chance to stretch and use the bathroom and get lined up with our fellow 8:30 pacers in plenty of time. A cold front had come through our area overnight, and we had unusually cold temperatures for race morning. It was like 36 degrees, so we tried to stay warm until the start. It had been so long since running in temperatures like this it was kind of exciting. When the sun rose, the sky was cloudless and blue. It was going to be fun!
The Half Marathon had over 2,200 people running and it was obvious when we all began lining up. It was a sea of runners both in front of us and behind us. I think we had 6 pacers in our group alone. We talked some strategy on how we would pace the group right up until the gun went off. With a challenging course like this one with all of its hills, I knew I wanted to be a few seconds ahead of target pace. The final few hills can be PR killers, so staying one or two second ahead throughout the race would leave us in good standing for the final mile.
The first few miles are crowded, and run through downtown Durham. You get a taste of the hills right from the start. We nailed our target pace though right from the start. We talked a lot with the group, but it was also obvious right from the start that we would be pacing about 40-50 people and we were all spread out. I think the most exciting thing for me was how into it my son was. He has a few trepidations about pacing when we first talked about it, but after I convinced him that he had everything it took to be a fantastic pacer, he really warmed up to it. He was very excited! I told him to stick as close to me as possible, but the excitement of the race had him out in front of me a ways quite often.
The course continues on trough Trinity Park, and Duke Campus, hills abound. With every uphill though comes downhills, and it’s a really nicely varying race. Occasionally there were neat signs along the course, and chalk drawings and encouragements on the road. Our group waxed and waned, but our pace was right on the mark. It was such an enjoyable run. Offering words of encouragement to runners as they passed me, or encouraging every runner up the numerous hills. The weather was so cooperative that I never felt like I needed to stop for hydration along the course. I did, however use my GU’s at miles 5 and 10.
As the final mile approached and we were nearing the finish I started turning and running backwards to encourage runners behind me to push hard and pass me. My son and I met up side by side with about a half mile remaining. I wanted to be as close to the target of 8:30 as possible without going over so I ran backwards for pretty much the majority of the final tenth of a mile. I have so much fun getting those racers to the finish! Pacing is a truly awesome way to pay it forward.
I crossed the finish line in 1:51:14. Eleven seconds under our pace goal. Perfect! My son finished about 45 seconds under the goal, so we were both within a minute under. After the finish we were stopped numerous times and thanked for our pacing efforts. I know several runners even had personal bests on that tough course, so it’s super satisfying to me.
The post race village is amazing, and absolutely packed with runners and families. Food trucks all over, lots of refreshments and food. It was the perfect day for relaxing and relishing in a victory of the course. Durham is such a fun happening city. Relaxing on the lawn in front of the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) was so much easier after we ran back to the car to change out of wet shirts and grab a jacket. It was chilly! Well, it felt down right cold to me. A few more photos on the lawn to commemorate our accomplishment, and a visit to the Baguettaboutit Food Truck before we called it a day and headed home. Don’t ask me how, but I knew about ten people racing that day and managed to not bump into any of them after the race. A bit of a disappointment, but there will be other races to meet up. I had the best time with my son pacing that day. I only hope the opportunity comes up again sometime.