2011 was the second running of the Tobacco Road Marathon. They've got some issues to work on for next year.
Webmaster Bill and I traveled to North Carolina, from Wisconsin. We flew into Raleigh-Durham on Saturday, and returned to Wisconsin Monday morning. Our non-marathon excursions included the Botanical Gardens at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a driving tour of Duke University in Durham, a brief driving tour of Raleigh, NC.
While visiting, we were able to catch a late lunch at The Pit, in Raleigh, which was featured on an episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown on the Food Network. The challenge was BBQ ribs, and The Pit's Ed Mitchell won the challenge.
As for the marathon, there was good and bad.
The race course was great. We started with 3 miles on roads before arriving at the American Tobacco Trail. 20 miles of the course was on the American Tobacco Trail which is a rail trail, with a crushed limestone surface. It is flanked by tall pines on both sides that can provide shelter from wind and sun, had those been the conditions on our day. It was pretty scenic, and the crushed limestone offers a soft but very runnable surface. The trail section had long but very gradual inclines and declines. The last 3 miles were on roads. The road sections had a few rolling hills.
The trail section had 2 out and back legs, allowing us to see how is ahead and who is behind, twice. The first 3 miles allowed the field to thin out adequately before arriving on the trail, giving us adequate room to move around, and very little bunching up.
The aid stations were adequately space, and offered everything I needed: water, sports drink, Gu energy gels and Gu Chomps energy blocks. Volunteers handed things out efficiently. Spectators near road crossings gave enthusiastic cheers.
Overall, the actually running of the event was very pleasant. B+
Post race refreshment was disappointing. Only water, oranges, bananas and pizza were provided by the race. The pizza was gone by about the time that 3:45 marathoners were finishing. This is pretty early to be running out of food. There were no snacks such as chips, cookies, crackers or bagels, and no other beverage besides water. I would expect such limited accommodations at a $5 no-frills race, but not at an $80 marathon.
Great Harvest Bread company was there giving out free samples of 2 kinds of bread. Handing out free samples is not the same as having food supplied by the company. Slices were personally handed out, and it felt a little awkward to return for seconds.
Post race refreshments: D-
The logistics of getting to and from the start/finish was a disaster. There were a limited number of on-site parking passes available to those that signed up early enough. We were not in that group. We had to park at a site 5.5 miles away, and take the shuttle provided by the race organizers.
Shuttles to and from races are not rare, and usually work smoothly. Though not as convenient as being able to park on-site, this set up is an acceptable alternative when it works smoothly.
The shuttle bus system did not work smoothly. Before the race, the shuttle buses arrived at the parking venue using the same lane of traffic that the cars were using. Cars crawled into the parking area bumper to bumper. This caused such delays in being able to get folks to the start, since the buses couldn't get in and out, that the race had to be delayed by 15 minutes. Even as the half marathon started, runners will still arriving at the start finish venue. There were rumors that some of the buses were getting lost. As the marathon runners started congregating in the start corals, (the marathon started 15 min after the half marathon), half marathoners were just arriving, and heading straight onto the course, starting several minutes after the official start.
After the race, things were worse. It was about a 10 minute walk from the finish area to the line for the shuttle. We waited in a very long line, nearly an hour for a shuttle. We'd go 20+ minutes without seeing any buses arrive to pick up runners and spectators. Once we finally did get on a bus, and it was loaded, the bus driver took several minutes trying to determine if the bus was actually full. This process was very inefficient and frustrating. When other races use shuttles, they have a volunteer count the passengers as they board, and stop the boarding when the maximum number of passengers is reached, allowing the bus to immediately begin its journey.
Road congestion initially slowed our return trip, and when it wasn't congested, our driver seemed to be driving slower than the speed limit. Our return trip (5.5 miles) took nearly 25 minutes.
In total, from the time we decided to leave, it was more than an hour and a half before we arrived at our car.
I truly hope the organizers rectify these 2 issues for future events. I think there is potential for this to be a very nice marathon.