Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
It’s kind of like a midlife crisis kind of thing. When you turn 40, you have to run the marathon, while all the parts still work properly.Joe Bastianich
Oh MRC! We trained together, and we raced together. Even though we knew we’d trained for this, and were familiar with the course, there was still a collective nervousness. We all knew that anything could happen on race day, anything.
But just look at those smiles from everyone at mile 25! We knew we had it in the bag! We were going to finish and we were going to be marathoners!
It was such an amazing experience! I’ve shared before that Tobacco Road was my first ever half marathon, and now it’s my first ever full marathon! This race will always have a special place in my heart.
The Early Start
There were a few grumbles about aiming to arrive in the parking lot by 5:15am. We had a parking pass, but it was still recommended that you arrived by 5:30am (for a 7am race start). It’s nice to get parked so close and convenient to the start/finish line, so I personally did not mind the early start.
We sat in the car for a while before venturing out to use porta-potties and take a few photos. I took the opportunity to meet up with my fellow BibRave Pros for a pre-race catch-up and obligatory photo!
The Starting Line
We found our space in the starting line around 6:45am. The half marathon and full marathon start at the same time and share the same route for the first 2.5 miles. So we squeezed into a crowd of 3,060 runners, 818 of those were running the full marathon.
There were ample pacers interspersed from the front to the back. They were all wearing bright yellow shirts for easy visibility. They carried signs which indicated the planned pace they would be running.
The morning started off a little chilly, but I knew it wouldn’t take long to warm up, so I only wore t-shirt and shorts, hat and gloves. This worked out perfect as after 20-30 minutes I was just right. It was totally worth the time standing around freezing before we started running.
The course started in Thomas E Brooks park in Cary. From there it run along on the road for 2.5 miles until it hit the trail. At that point the half marathon runners turned left, and the full marathon runners turned right.
We ran for around 6 miles down the American Tobacco Trail, an old railway line that has been converted to a trail. At around mile 8 we turned and came back. At mile 14 we crossed back over and ran the half marathon section of the trail. At mile 19 we turned and ran back again to the road which led back again to Thomas E Brooks park.
The entire American Tobacco Trail is tree-lined, and the trail itself is not wide. With runners coming both ways, you probably have room only for 2-3 abreast in each direction.
Most of the race was on hard-packed gravel (pictured above), but some of the trail (maybe 3-4 miles) was paved.
Since there is not a lot of access for spectators, I quite like passing the other runners and encouraging each other. Most of my group were ahead so I had a couple of sections on the course where I got to high-five everyone on their way past.
The race started off well. With my foot/ankle injury a few weeks back, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the team. So I just relaxed and enjoyed the run. My ankle started to give the first signs of trouble around mile 6.
I was able to ignore it until around mile 14-15 when it became a little harder to keep going at the pace I was running at. I slowed down and took a few walk breaks to give my foot some rest. By this stage I was getting a sharp pain every so often when my foot struck the ground.
Marathon running, for me, was the most controlled test of mettle that I could ever think of. It’s you against Darwin.Ryan Reynolds
Mile 20 felt just like it did in Ireland. It was exhausting. At mile 23 I started to get some calf cramps, but nothing too major and they didn’t stay too long.
At this stage of the race, the field had thinned out and you were running with people now around the same level. We’d take turns passing each other.
At one time I realized that I was going to complete this thing. It nearly brought me to tears — it wouldn’t be the only time.
Around mile 24 I was back on the road back to the park — to the finish line. This helped me pick up the pace a little, knowing I was definitely going to make it.
When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.Haile Gebrselassie
At mile 25, my friends Purvi and Thelma (who had ran and completed the half already that morning) where on the last hill on the way back cheering our team. Purvi’s husband took the photos at the top of this post. I love all the expressions of joy in the midst of pain. 😉
The Fuel Plan
The plan was to alternate between Water and Gatorade at each aid station. The Tobacco Road Marathon had plenty of aid stations – every 2-3 miles. The volunteers were super helpful and encouraging.
Quite a few stations had GU gels, but I was carrying my own gels since I hadn’t trained with GU. There was also various snacks on offer, as well as pickle juice, and even Mimosas and bacon.
So, going into the race my fuel plan was:
- Water/Gatorade every 2-3 miles
- Salt Tablet every 3 miles
- Gatorade Endurance Gel every 5 miles
I stuck to the plan as best I could. At times my stomach felt really sick and I was close to throwing up (too much gel?). After mile 20 I started to drink more at the aid stations, as before I was taking only a sip or two.
The Finish Line
I had a look at my race photos today, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked as happy to have finished a race before. The feeling was amazing. Then when I saw my wife and little boy come running up to me at the end I nearly started balling again.
I had pre-booked a massage at the expo, so after I had a couple of slices of pizza and a chocolate milk, I got myself over to the massage tent. It was $20 for 20 minutes and worth every penny (cent).
The Support Crew
These are the people who supported us through this. I’m really thankful to my wife and family for allowing me to chase this crazy goal, and half expects me to try it again some time. 🤣🤣🤣
But seriously, a marathon is something I’d never seen myself doing. Even when I signed up, it still scared me. We’ve come a long way. We trained together, we raced together and now we are marathoners.
Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.C.S. Lewis