About 6 weeks before running the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October, one of my great friends from school, JFG, called me up to see if I would join him in his first half marathon in Charlotte. He has come up to DC to see me a few times over the past few years, so I thought this would a be a great reason to head down South. Just so happens one of my other great college buddies, Houska, also lives in Charlotte and is an avid runner as well. I shot him a buzz in hopes he would line up for the Thunder Road Half Marathon beside us. Of course he was down, and so everything fell into place for a perfect weekend of running, Southern hospitality, beer, and car bombs (the drink, not the terrorist act).
I got in Friday afternoon and killed a little time before JFG and Houska got off work. Once they were able make a run for it, JFG picked me up and we drove the half marathon course. Two things became very clear over the 13.1 miles in the car: this course is very hilly, and there is a lot of money in Charlotte. After that we all (Houska and the girlfriends) met up for the expo, grabbed our packets and a few other goodies, and went out to dinner. JFG found a sweet little Italian place called Open Kitchen. Someone said it was the oldest running restaurant in Charlotte, not sure if that’s true, but it was definitely a good choice. Off to bed early, taking it easy before the race.
Last weekend was cold in Charlotte. Typically I’m not bothered by the cold, but it was cold. The kind of wet cold that just seeps through your skin right down to the bone. That weather makes it hard to stand around in your running shorts waiting for the gun to go off. I dress in long sleeves, gloves, and a hat, while JFG was in pants and Houska had on some compression sleeves to show off his guns for the wife lady. Thankfully it only took about a mile for my body to warm up and get loose.
The Thunder Road was a combined start for both the Half and the Full marathons. There were roughly 5000 half marathon starters and 1500 marathoners. After running with over 30,000 MCM runners a few months ago, this felt very different, but in a good, personal way. Like I mentioned before, this course was hilly. While it never had any super steep climbs, I literally don’t think there was a flat stretch on the entire route. It was constant up and down, up and down, which kept things interesting, but made it a little difficult to keep a consistent pace. The run, however difficult, is extremely beautiful. Other than the first and last few miles of running through downtown, the entire course passes through neighborhood after neighborhood and giant tree lined streets. The houses along the way are massive, offering nice distractions and views. I never knew Charlotte had so much money. It is a beautiful city.
The run itself went pretty darn well. Houska took off, maximizing on the aerodynamics from his compression sleeves, searching for a PR (which he reached, almost breaking the 1:30 mark!), and JFG and I kept a great pace further back. Despite the hills, we somehow ran about 20 seconds per mile faster than expected, crossing the line at a great time.
The race was well run, and all the runners really seemed to enjoy themselves. The crowds were pretty good for a race this size, and the excitement was certainly high. JFG’s and Houska’s girlfriends were great, cheering us on at a few different spots throughout the course. As we turned off the marathon course around mile 12, I was extremely happy we were not running the full. I’m sure the crowds quickly dwindled, and while I loved my marathons, this wasn’t the day.
As a gesture of kindness to my hosts, I’m not going to get into too many details about the post-race shenanigans, but here is the abbreviated recap:
- 10:15am post race pumpkin ales
- Individual showers
- More beers and black bean burgers at Big Daddy’s Burger Bar
- Poor ASU football showing on ESPN
- Car Bombs at the Pub
- JFG and I winning a bet
- Houska buying more car bombs for losing the bet
- Cosmic Karma and pitchers of Foothills at Mellow Mushroom
- Christmas Parties
- Weird people in colorful wigs
- Bed before midnight
Friends sure are fun, aren’t they?
I have to admit that the training for this half was a bit of a struggle. The emotions went from post-marathon excitement, to burn out, to ‘man I don’t want to run in the cold’, to ‘man I feel slow’ in a matter of weeks. In retrospect I probably wouldn’t register for a half so close to the marathon if I was running it by myself, but knowing that JFG and Houska would be there kept my head in it. It was a great weekend and a great race. If you have to chance to run Thunder Road, I would highly recommend it.