Friendly Advice about the Tarheel 10-Miler (2013)

My friends… I have noticed you all are looking for information about the Tarheel 10-miler, so I thought I’d combine my three years of experience with this race into a single post, bullet pointed, for an easier read. Let me start by saying this is one of my all-time favorite races. I may not be able to do it next year because I impulsively (sorta) registered for my first full marathon – the Rock and Roll Raleigh – for the weekend of April 14 of 2014. Something tells me I won’t be in the kind of shape I’ll need to be in to run this race next year… maybe I’ll do the 4-miler instead. 

I digress. That’s not why you’re here. On with the show, shall we?

What I LOVE About This Race

I am starting here because there are more things to love about it than to be afraid of, in my opinion:

  1. Parts of it is well organized. I’ll have been in all races of all sizes and this one is pretty well organized, in my opinion for the 10-mile group. Let me be clear, though: the *race* is well organized. There are associated parts that… well.. not so much. I liked the packet pick up in years past, and I liked the start/finish in 2012. In 2011, however, the stadium was under renovation so the finish chute was just outside of it and a little cramped.
  2. It is mid-sized. There are 2 events: a 4-miler and a 10-miler and the total participation for both events is about 5,000. It usually fills up each year, but the 4-mile race is usually much bigger than the 10.
  3. It is pretty. It starts and finishes on the UNC-CH campus (for out of towners: this is the Tarheels or the Rams – the baby blue… please don’t confuse that with the Devils… them’s fightin’ words, as we say around here). The campus is just gorgeous, especially this time of year, so even when you’re struggling to get up those hills, you have some nice stuff to look at. 
  4. Pretty decent community support. There were a lot of spectators at the beginning/end, some in one of the neighborhoods and quite a few down Franklin Street.
  5. Fun Rivalry theme. ah… I’m a NCSU grad (out of staters: that’s the Wolfpack – the Red… or the school not many have heard of because of the other two… but I’m not bitter about it… haha) We have fun in this area with rivalries between NCSU, UNC-CH, Duke, Wake Forest, East Carolina, among others. This race gives you the option (if you register early) to put your school on your bib, and a lot of folks will dress in their school colors. In good fun, a lot of the spectators will “yeah!” and hi-five you or “booo” and thumbs-down while they yell out your team name.
  6. Plenty of Parking. …that is… once you actually get there.

Some Advice to Keep Under Your Hat

  1. Yes. Laurel Hill is a bitch. There. I said it. Salt and all. It is one of the nastier hills I’ve run in this state so far, but, judging from a recent trip to Asheboro, probably not the worst in the state. I’ve run in San Francisco, and this hill bothered me. Looking back at my stats from last year, we started the hill at 318 feet (mile 8.5) and finished it at 485 feet (mile 9.4). Sounds like it isn’t that bad, but, I assure you, it feels steeper than that. Standing at the bottom of it for the first time, my thought was “what the <insert appropriate expletive here>?” The bottom of it felt steeper than the top – there was what I call “the fake out” section where it seemed to flatten until you turn a corner and see it go back up. Let me contrast this for you with the San Francisco Marathon First Half – my biggest climb in that race was 0 feet to 280 feet at The Presidio from mile 9.11 to mile 10.04. I think I talk about that hill the most. This is the one I talk about second to that one.
  2. The course is hilly beyond Laurel Hill. The town is appropriately named. I really don’t know that Laurel Hill would  be so bad if the rest of the run was flatter. You pretty much bounce around from 423 feet to about 518 feet for the first 8.5 miles – it is rolling and somewhat relentless. Unlike the San Francisco Marathon First Half I keep mentioning, the hills just don’t stop. They’re long climbers, usually, too. At least in San Fran I was on flat ground for a while. Never a dull moment in this race.
  3. The exception to the organization is the 4-miler. My experience with this has not been good, friends. My only DNF. They keep changing the 4-miler route and start time. The year I attempted it, 2010, I ended up in the 10-mile route. I stayed on it a little over 5 miles before I just gave up because my legs hurt – too bad, too, because I was making pretty awesome time for me at that point. I had just run my first half marathon two weeks before, so I was annoyed that I was on the 10-mile path. I wasn’t ready for 10. I was ready for 4. This year, they’re starting both races at the same time. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m sure you’ll hear all about it after Saturday.
  4. Traffic coming in is a  nightmare. This is one of the poorly organized things that, given the location, I’m not really sure there is anything they can really do about it. In years past, they staggered the start times of the 4-miler and the 10-miler. However, they usually try to coordinate this with the Spring Game and other sports-events (I think one year they also had a baseball play off the same day) so they try to get you in, out and on your way… unless you want to stay for the game, which a lot of people do. There are literally 2-3 ways to get on Campus and those roads are not built to support 5,000+ people entering at the same time. To add pour salt in the wound this year, though, they plan to start BOTH races at 7:30 am. Plan ahead and leave early. I ended up starting the race a full 15-minutes late last year and it really threw me off.
  5. It is an early start. I’m not a morning person, so driving 45 minutes for a 7:30 AM start is just hard, especially since I now know I’ll have to leave before 6 AM to get there on time. I have good music this year, so I’m hoping it’ll be better.
  6. I can never find my *$@##% car after. Soooo, given. I’m not a navigational genius. I recently had to have my 8-year old navigate me out of the back woods of Wake County. However, I am reasonably good at finding my car in crowds. Maybe everything looks alike or I just get turned around, but for 3 straight years, I have walked aimlessly around that campus looking for my car – the worst was last year because I really had to use the restroom. I was hungry, parched and tired and by the time I finally found it, pretty mad. I have heard similar stories from others who did not attend the university, so it isn’t just me. My attempt to resolve this issue this year is to use an iPhone app called Carrr Matey. I hope it works because I don’t have the time to goof around this year.

There you have it. I hope this helps. Despite the issues, though, I just love the feel of this race and I really love the 10-mile distance. No race is perfect and they make little changes with this one every year. Each year it gets a little better. Maybe I’ll volunteer next year so I can still be a part of the race. 

Have a good race and see you on Saturday!

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