Bull City Half Marathon- Race Recap

This past Sunday I ran Bull City Race Fest again!  Third time in the four years the race has been running.  The only time I didn’t run it was a few years ago when I ran the Greensboro Marathon the day before.  Yes, I hated to miss it that year but I just couldn’t get myself out of bed at 4am after a marathon the day before.  My legs and energy were shot.  This year was another story.

Everything about this race is just awesome.  Tons of runners, nearly 6,000 every year running the Half, Five miler and 1 miler combined.  I was asked to be on the pace team again this year, one of my absolute favorite things to do.  Since I’ve been struggling a bit with my feet I decided to pace the 9:00 mile group.

I paced with with a great runner, Drew, who I hadn’t met at previous pace experiences at this race.  He was an awesome pace partner.  In 2013 I paced the 1:45:00 finish group, in 2015 I paced the 8:30 per mile group with my son, and now 2016 the 9:00 mile group.

Race morning was near perfection weather wise.  52 degrees, and just beautiful.  This race has always been ultra lucky with fantastic weather.  We lined up with our pace sign about 20 minutes prior to the gun.  As you can imagine, this group was loaded with folks wanting to beat the 2:00:00 Half finish.  I love a huge group of runners, especially on a hilly course.  Runners ebb and flow, and you get a chance to meet and talk with so many new faces along the way!

Our race was filled with ups and downs, as you would expect on the hills of Durham.  Such a great course though, giving runners a chance to see many parts of the city.  We kept a great consistent pace.  Constantly checking our progress, Drew and I maintained a pace of about 8:57 through the first half of the course.  As with most races, our timing devices were a little off from each other, and also the mile markers on course, but doing the extrapolations each mile, we were confident our pace was on target especially knowing how difficult and hilly the final miles are.

We ended up bringing tons of folks across the line with new PR’s, and many more just so happy to finish that tough race.  Pacing is always tough work.  My goals are different depending on each races expectations of how close to the target each pacer should be, and much to my surprise I came across the line with a perfect 1:58:00, 9:00 minute mile pace.  So difficult to nailed it perfectly, in fact I’ve never done it.  Most races expect a finish within a minute under goal time, but not over.  This one may go down in the books as the only perfect finish I’ll ever have.

It was a great day!  Finish festival with food trucks is always a bonus, especially when you can spread out and bask in the sun and also the glow of an awesome finish!  Thanks Bull City, and big thanks to Drew for pacing with me!  I shall return!

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Herald of Victory Marathon -Recap

The long and curious absence from my blog can be summed up in one word….

BUSY

Well, many words can actually describe my absence.  Packing, moving, job change, vacation, graduation.  They all equal a complete and total lack of time to blog.

Well, I’m back.  Let me catch you up on a few things.  I celebrated the graduation of my youngest son a month ago with family in town and a very expensive dinner.  We had a blast.  The most important thing being that my son enjoyed every moment of it, and is just about six weeks away now from walking onto his new college campus to start classes for the next phase in life.  I’ve been getting myself used to not seeing him as much, as I have given him a lot more independence this Summer.  He takes the reigns on his own life very soon.  Sad, but true.

In the midst of everything, I had a trip to see my Dad in NY, and to run marathon #27. My Dad and I had a blast together.  The marathon?  Maybe my toughest one to date.  I can sum up the race in one word…  Well two,….BEASTLY HOT!  Seriously, the race was the day before Memorial Day, usually a moderate temperature time of year for upstate New York.  Not to be.  It was hot and humid my entire four day visit.  Topped off with race morning temperatures in the low 70’s, and about 92 degrees by the time I finished.  I normally don’t race just to finish, but I race that day with the goal of surviving the heat and living another day.  It worked.  Get this, the Herald of Victory Marathon was an inaugural race.  Never done before, but so attractive to me because it gave me a chance to run a marathon where I grew up.  Even though the conditions were excruciating at times (most of the time) I had a smile on my face and a positive attitude from start to finish.  I knew I would finish, even in those temperatures.  I took it easy from the very beginning, thoughts of not wanting to have nothing left in that kind of heat 20 miles in.  I finished.  I ran through Binghamton, Vestal, Johnson City, Chenango Forks, over bridges, through beautiful parks, past cheering spectators in utter and complete appreciation for every volunteer along the way keeping me hydrated and pumped up and energized.

With a finish time of 4:30:33 (a personal worst), the Herald of a Victory Marathon was a huge victory for me personally.  Victorious over another grueling 26.2 mile run.  I managed my race very well from start to finish.  I owned it!  Believe it or not there were only 8 finishers under the 4:00:00 mark.  Eight!  A race with 113 finishers in 90+ degrees, I finished 24th.  My worst time, but a stunning accomplishment on the day.  I’ve learned a lot about myself as a runner, fighting conditions, letting my body and mind do the work.  I never cramped, I was never overcome by the heat.  I did the right things that day and made it to the finish with a smile, my Dad welcoming me over the finish line.

Since that day I’ve only run once.  Once in six weeks. I needed a break.  Five marathons this year, my muscles and really the rest of my body needed a break.  Time to relax and rejuvenate.

I promise I will be better with my blogging, too.  Back on the streets today for a run, and back at the blogging game.  So, how have you been?  Are you enjoying the Summer?

Here are a few pix from my NY trip before I head out on errands today.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon -Race Recap

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So many thoughts about race day and the lead up to it.  This race was many things, and meant the world to me.  Looking back on it, although it was tough like any marathon is, and far from my best finish, it happened on my birthday so I will remember this one more than most.

The days prior to the event were fairly normal.  I worked seven strength days in a row to get the weekend off, so I spent a lot of time on my feet.  I ran several fairly short runs the two weeks leading up to the 13th.  I guess you could say I was as prepared as I could be, given that I had already run three other marathons this year.  Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh, and inaugural event here at home was one I could not miss out on.  It landed on my 44th Birthday, which Rock ‘n’ Roll was kind enough to commemorate with ’44’ incorporated into my Bib number.  I really love it, and it is a great keepsake.

Pre race emails and information was plentiful, as with other RnR events I’ve run.  A fine tuned machine, I guess I would say.  They know how to keep you informed.  First up, was the race expo, on Friday and Saturday at the Raleigh Convention Center downtown.  I had to work Friday night, so I made my way to the expo on Saturday.

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Parking was easy, and close.  The expo was buzzing with excited runners.  A really well set up event.  Easy to find everything and it flowed very well.  Quite a bit easier to get around than the expos I’ve attended in Las Vegas.  Another thumbs up to RnR, especially since this was a first time event.  Later that day, I got all of my pre race rituals taken care of, and had my bag and supplies all ready to go.  I mapped which way I would get into the city, and which parking lots I would scope out in the morning.  I was ready.  Sleep was nearing, although I wouldn’t get much.  RnR instructions clearly stated numerous times that they wanted runners to be in the city and parked by 6am, for the 7am start.

I woke up on my Birthday, normally I would have slept in on a special day like this.  This day however was even more special.  Being able to run my 12th marathon on my Birthday was just incredible.  I didn’t mind getting up early.  ;).  Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to me, you see, I received this race entry as a Christmas gift.  The day was finally here.  The morning went off without a hitch.  I left the house at 5:10 am, for the twenty mile drive to Raleigh.  I built in some extra time, not sure of what kind of traffic I would be up against once I got to the city.  Let’s face it, 12,000 runners being dropped off or having to park in the city may cause a few snarls, with all of the road closures.  To my surprise, it was smooth sailing.  I was parked by about 5:45am.  This meant I had plenty of time to relax in the car, hydrate and get ready.

I was parked about two blocks from the start line, so I didn’t plan on leaving the car until about 6:30ish.  I began hearing of traffic problems, and runners being stuck in traffic on Interstate 40 just after 6am.  I had no sympathy.  RnR clearly reminded runners over and over to be parked by 6am.  Arrive early people!  I suspect that some of those runners that wanted to push their arrival until the last possible moment were the reason why the race had to start 10 minutes late.  I don’t appreciate your need to get those extra zzzzz’s or not having your race stuff ready the night before.  It was rude, and caused most of the runners to have to wait an extra ten minutes to start.  Again, no sympathy for you getting stuck in traffic.

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The starting line was very well set up, and the 20 something corrals set up clearly.  I was in the 1st corral, so I had great views of the stage, and opening remarks, National Anthem, etc..  Right at 7:10 am the gun went off.  I was running my birthday marathon.  I felt pretty good.  The temperature was 60 degrees.  A little warm for my liking, but there was a cool, dry breeze to make it feel a little more comfortable.  We made our way through the city.  What I loved seeing were tons of spectators lining the course all throughout the city, at the start.  It seemed that Raleigh really embraced the race, and folks cheering on the runners were out in force.  This made me really happy to see.  Because of the late start, I already had to go to the bathroom, and I wasn’t even a mile into the race.  As I made my way down Blount Street, I saw a line of port o potties, and decided to make myself more comfortable.  A quick trip in and out, I was back on the course.  Feeling better now, but already off track pace wise.

Rock ‘n’ Roll was able to get the city to agree to a beautiful course.  I’ve run many parts of this course in several other races downtown, like Run for the Oaks, RunRaleigh Half Marathon and Raleigh Rocks Half, but this course was touted as the postcard course, offering the best of the best of the city of Raleigh.  I ran through parts of Raleigh on this course that I have never even driven through in the fifteen years that I have lived here.  There were I believe, about 26 bands scattered throughout the race course.  One of the first we encountered was a drumline from Shaw University.  Powerful, loud and full of energy.  Pumping up the runners as we passed them performing on a bridge over the race route.  We soon turned onto Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and headed east.  Making a turn onto Chavis Way and heading north, we passed Chavis Park.  A beautiful area that I had never been in.  I tried to soak in all the views.  I was already sweating, a lot.  I knew at this point, that as the time ticked away during this run, that the temperatures would rise, and I would really have to focus on good hydration.  I made the most of every aid station.  Thank you to all of the great volunteers that showed up in droves to maintain the aid stations and make sure us runners had what we needed.

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We headed north on Bloodworth St., and made our way over to Historic Oakwood Cemetery.  Again, a beautiful spot.  I had to remind myself from time to time that this was my birthday run.  Soak it in, enjoy it.  It truly was unique.  The course was tough.  Rolling, challenging.  For those of you that made your way to Raleigh form 48 other states, I’m sure your body right now agrees that Raleigh is not a flat city.  The hills can fool you.  Sometimes the rolling nature of Raleigh is unnoticeable while driving, but lace up and walk or run it, because it is a different story altogether.  I was already feeling tired five miles in.  We made a turn on Glascock St., and headed west.  We ran right past William Peace University and turned onto Peace St..  This area is up and down, and that is exactly how I felt.  For some reason my mind was wandering too much.  I wasn’t focused on the running like I usually do.  I think it just really had to do with the undulating course.  It was difficult.  We weren’t that far in, and I was already tired and my shirt was pretty soaked with sweat.  I got a little down on myself.  I was thinking to myself, “how in the world will I ever keep running for another 20 miles?”

I pressed on.  Miles 6 to 8 were all along Peace Street.  Lots of spectators, lots of hills, restaurants, Cameron Village.  I was feeling tired, but knew I was in it for the long haul.  I felt lifted by some of the bands, and the countless spectators along this section of the course.  When we finally hit Hillsborough Street, the Half and a Full marathoners split.  Running the Full, I headed west, and it was right then it became painfully clear just how many of us were crazy enough to run the Full.  Up until after the race was finished and the results were posted, I had no idea how many people were running each race.  1,615 runners completed the Full.  Over 8,000 finished the Half.  It was clear as we headed out for a long, shadeless journey toward the State Fairgrounds that runners were more sparse.

Miles 11-13 took us out to and looping around the PNC Arena.  Before that however, we passed NC States Carter-Finley Stadium on Trinity Road.  All along this section I knew that I would be heading back after the turn around, so all I kept thinking was that every downhill I encountered now was going to turn into an uphill heading back.  It was quiet, it was breezy, it was getting hot.  I figured the temperature had to be at least 68 to 70 degrees by the time I hit the half way point on the course.  I was holding steady, but feeling every mile in my legs.  The next five miles was an out and back on Edwards Mill Road and Reedy Creek Road.  This part of the course proved to be the toughest for me, both mentally and physically.  At mile marker 14, on a tough uphill section the marathon’s eventual winner whizzed by me heading back in the other direction.  He looked like he was floating.  I wished I was him!  Heading down Reedy Creek was nice.  What I found myself thinking though was how tough this hill was going to be coming back up it after the turn around.  I now felt hot, and there was no shade.  Full on sun, lots of pollen in the air.  It was difficult.  I was thirsty.  I found myself counting my steps, looking for that turn around to finally come into view.  I knew, I just knew that there would be an aid station there.  I needed some water, I needed to hydrate before that long uphill mile on the return.  I got to the turn around.  No aid station.  Really?  I had to do this uphill now without fueling up?  Ugh!  I will list this on the runner survey, as an aid station there is critical for this tough part of the course.

The long ascent on Reedy Creek Road was mentally draining.  Physically it was awful.  Next time I will be more prepared for this section. Coming back down Edwards Mill after finally getting to hydrate again, I got a second wind.  I have to thank someone I’ve never met for that.  I have to thank Pharrell Williams!  Yes, you heard that right.  As I passed mile 17, the song “Happy”, was blaring from a sound system along the route.  I couldn’t help myself.  I sung out loud.  My mood was uplifted, and I glided myself, just like the leader was in that same section when I passed him an hour prior.  I really needed that Pharrell!  Thanks for that song.  I was happy.

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At mile 20, I yelled out to a woman on a stage who was announcing runner numbers and giving encouragement.  I yelled out, “it’s my Birthday, cheer me on”.  She did.  She wished me a happy birthday, and helped me move my aging legs a little further down Hillsborough.  I knew that near mile 21, a friend of mine was going to meet me.  I looked forward to that.  She is a runner.  Used to be a great runner, and offered to jump into the race and help pace me to the finish.  As I hit the intersection at Faircloth St., at Meredith College, there she was.  Pony tail, running clothes, and wishing me a happy birthday.  She was pumped, and ready to lend a hand.  I really needed the boost.  By this point my pace was shot from all of the hills and heat, and I just wanted to finish strong and enjoy myself.

We plodded along, passing NC State, and turning just after the Bell Tower.  The heat was now unforgiving.  Pullen Road to Western Blvd., Kathleen kept me going.  She would yell out to spectators that it was my birthday.  “Happy Birthday Paul”, pointing at me.  Those on the side of the street would realize what she was doing, and then I would hear a bunch of birthday wishes.  This happened many times, and it was much appreciated.  Another part of Raleigh that I had never been was the Dorthea Dix area that we were heading into around the 24 mile point.  Very pretty in there, and of course difficult, too.  There was a beautiful tribute to fallen soldiers along a section of the course in here, and I was just blown away by how inspiring it was.  Countless people holding posters of faces, wearing blue shirts.

We headed back toward the center of the city.  The final mile was tough, but worth it.  Another friend gave me a high five as I passed over the Morgan Street bridge that I drive over each work day.  Families, friends and strangers were lined up everywhere along the final stretch.  As I made the final turn onto Fayetteville St., I said goodbye to Kathleen, as she peeled off.  She had done her job.  I am so grateful to her, and will get her a thank you card for her efforts.  I didn’t know until afterward that she had already run over a mile to get to where she met me on the course, and then she had to run over two miles back to her car after she left me.  Thank you Kathleen!

I gave the last two blocks in the city my best.  Focused on the finish line, I turned up the heat, and used up any juice that was left in my legs.  In fact, I don’t think any runners passed me over the last three miles.  I finished in a sprint, which put me at a clock time of 3:55:47. Official gun time was 3:55:40.  I met up with my family, and gave everyone a stinky hug.  I got to finally say Happy Birthday to my son, who turned 16 the same day.

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I wandered through the finisher village, grabbing water, bananas and chocolate milk.  A slice of pizza.  I always need something salty at the finish.  I had made it.  My body held up, I pushed through the pain, the hills, the heat.  Another 26.2 to my credit.  Beating that course was very satisfying.  We walked over to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the post race concert, which was in full swing.  New Politics was playing as we arrived.  We grabbed some food from the food trucks there, and basked in the sun.  It was a wonderful experience.  A great inaugural race, and a day to celebrate Raleigh, and my running.  It was an epic birthday this year.  One I will never forget.

 

Bull City Race Fest – Race recap

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Here is my review of the Inaugural Bull City Half Marathon on 10/20/13

I will begin with a few stats….

Bull City was my 18th Half marathon.  8th this year.  I won’t really recap my time compared to other Halves, because I was pacing this event, not really running my hardest.  I agreed just a few days prior to the event to be a pace leader for the 8mm pace group, a goal finishing time of just under 1:45:00.  I was excited, but a bit nervous to be pacing this event, not knowing the course.  Turned out to go just great, and I certainly will be a pace leader again, if asked.

I worked a closing shift on Saturday night before the race, which meant a late dinner, and late bed time.  Being a pro at having all of my gear together prior to race day, I wasn’t worried about the time in the morning.  I was however, worried about parking, etc, as I have rarely spent any time in Durham, and really don’t know the streets at all.  I went to bed peaceful, and tired.  Then it happened! A first for everything, I guess.  I had my alarm set for 3:30am, but I didn’t wake up until 4:50am.  I overslept!!!  Holy sh!t

I usually give myself at least an hour and a half on race mornings, to get up, have coffee, relax, shower and be out the door headed to the event.  Waking up so late meant I had exactly 30 minutes to do all of those things before heading out the door.  I was stressed!  I only had enough time for one cup of coffee, use the bathroom, shower and throw my stuff together.  I realized as I was driving to Durham that I had forgotten a shirt to race in.  I normally wear a different shirt in the car, something I can change back into after the race, so that I have a dry shirt for the ride home.  Thankfully, being a pacer, I remembered that I would be picking up an official pacer shirt once I got there, so I would be running in that anyway.  Whew!  Crisis averted.  Here is what the shirt looked like.

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Awesome Bib, with name, and great shirt, too!  Thankfully it was a tech shirt, so I shouldn’t have much trouble with that.  I arrived in Durham, right at 6am, when I wanted to be there.  Parking was an absolute breeze!  Why did I stress about this?  Well, probably because knew that there were close to 6,000 runners that morning, between the Half and the other event, a 5 miler.  Plus they said they were expecting about 10,000 spectators.  I worried about parking, but really didn’t need to in the end.  I have made a mental note for next year.  Since I worked the day before, during the expo, I still had to find packet pickup, and then find the volunteer area, to pick up my pace leader shirt and info.  This too, was easy as pie.  The parking, and all event related happenings were at the American Tobacco Campus on Blackwell St.  This area is a mixed use redevelopment (commercial, residential, and office) in the former tobacco warehouses near the Durham Bulls Ballpark.  The area is just so nice, they have done a great job with it!  Lots of space to move around, and perfect for the start of a race this big.  Race morning temperature was about 52 degrees, and it was supposed to be clear and perfect for the race.

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I grabbed my stuff, and heading back to the parking deck, to get ready.  As it turns out, because it was chilly that morning, and a little breezy, it was warmer in the parking garage, so it was a nice place to relax and get my bib on my shirt, etc…  I had an Iced a Gingerbread Clif Bar, and downed a bottle of water with a grape Nuun tablet.  Go to race morning fuel.  It was time to head to the start, as I had to report for pacer duty, and be at the start at 7am.  a full half hour before the gun.  I used the restroom one last time, and made my way there.  People were starting to gather, but my friend Paula managed to find me, and we talked for a few minutes.  Because I had a pacer shirt on, people started walking up to me asking me questions about the race, the course, etc., which I didn’t know how to answer.  It was my first time, too.  I grabbed the 8:00 sign, and held it high above the crowd that started to form.  Then, two folks quickly appeared, who were also pacing with me.  Tina Weiler, and Mark Manz.  Both very nice folks, we got to know each other a bit with simple conversation.  A bunch of runners started to form a group around us, and behind us.  I chatted with a number of them prior to the National Anthem, and gun.

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This photo is a bit blurry, but you can see that the start of the race was right next to the Durham Bulls baseball stadium.

Two minutes before the gun, we dropped the 8:00 sign, and started to move up toward the start.  At 7:30 we were off!  It was tough dodging through the race crowd at first, at a slight incline, no less.  We maintained a nice even pace for the first mile.  I had an absolutely ridiculous case of dry mouth right at the start.  I could barely talk those first two miles.  I couldn’t form words because my mouth had absolutely no moisture in it.  This did go away eventually.  I am not used to having conversations while I run, but knew that as a pacer, folks would want to talk.  They did.  We talked about racing, races, etc… and it really helped to pass the time and the miles.

I was really impressed by how beautiful the race course was.  Time and time again, I remember talking about it.  The crowd support was plentiful, and there were even a few bands along the way to keep things interesting.  Starting at the American Tobacco Campus, the course heads downtown and over to the Trinity Park neighborhood.  From there up and around to Duke University’s East Campus, and then down through West Campus via beautiful Campus Drive.  From there the course heads over to Forest Hills for a couple of miles, and then finally returns to Blackwell St., near DPAC.  (Durham Performing Arts Center). The course was challenging, plentiful hills everywhere, and just so interesting and beautiful.  Probably one of the nicest courses I have run, and I have run on many.

Running is this group, as a pace leader, was a truly unique experience.  I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed being the cheerleader, the supporter, the leader.  Tina, Mark and I managed such a even pace, we often traded the lead back and forth.  The group ebbed and flowed, as the hills came and went, but we maintained a great pace.  After the first mile, we built in a few extra seconds on the pace, sort of banking some extra time just in case.  I met and talked with many runners.  Many with inspiring stories, many swapping tales of races and marathons.  Overall, it just felt so relaxing and easy.  This surprised me.  I am usually the Lone Ranger out there on the course.  I normally don’t chat too much, and stay focused on my goal.  This time, however, the goal was to get others to the finish.  I really need to take part in some group training runs in the future, as the socialization aspect of running is lost on me for the most part.  I really enjoyed it during this race.  I have to be a pace leader more often.  This was a great experience.

The final miles of the the race came so quickly.  My Garmin had a steady pace of 7:52 to 7:53 for the middle miles, so coming to the end, we were sure to get this group of folks to the finish line in time.  As we neared mile 12, I knew it was time to send the group ahead to the finish.  I encouraged each one to run strong, finish strong.  I applauded their efforts.  It kind of felt like putting my children on the bus for the first time to school.  Time to let go.  One by one, over the final half mile they made there way by me.  The crowds started getting bigger and bigger, and then we could see the finish line come into view.  People cheered, and clapped.  We slowed down a bit at the very end, knowing we had made the goal.  As we came into the finish, I reached out to high five both Tina and Mark, and we crossed the line together.  It truly was special to me.  I got my medal from a young girl, and proceeded down the chute.

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Awesome medal!!!

The finisher area was open and inviting.  Plentiful water, post race snacks, massages, and plenty of vendors everywhere with giveaways, etc..  They did a great job.  The sun was out, there was music, and the atmosphere just electric.  This event also had a Food Truck Rodeo in the finisher area.  There were like 8-10 food trucks there with everything from kettle corn to cupcakes.  A great way to cap off a great event.  Here are some more photos I took on my phone.

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All in all it was a fantastic day.  Great weather, great fun!  This event was the second largest Half marathon I have participated in.  They had a great overall turn out for a first year event.  They had great marketing, and fantastic volunteers.  Just goes to show that local events, can be just as big and well supported as national events.  Between the 1 miler, 5 miler and Half marathon, they had almost 6,000 people register.  The race director stated before the race began, that next year he was shooting for 10,000 participants.  Based on how well this event was run, I do believe it will grow to that size in 2014.  I know I will be back for sure.

My official results:  260/2383 overall.      43/166 for age group.    Gun time: 1:44:28.    Chip time:  1:44:05

Run Local!  Run Bull City!

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