Race Recap: 2018 Race Across Durham 10 Miler

I ran this race way back in December last year and just noticed I had’t posted a review on it. Well, better late than never, right? This was the 2nd year I’d ran Race Across Durham. The first year, I signed up and ran it on my own, this year I brought a few pals along.

The trail conditions this time were really wet. They had to change the full marathon course drastically because of flooding. It looked like the 10 mile course would stay as planned, but on race day it was shortened to around 8.5-9 miles.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t mind that at all. My race pretty much sucked that day and I was glad to be done. I had really low energy and was not competing at the same level as the previous year. I found out later when I got home that I was running a fever which helped explain things. 🤢

I love racing (and training) along the Eno. The course had a few surprises this year too. There were a few bridges that had washed away in recent storms, so a couple of extra creek crossings were required!

In preparation for this race, I didn’t train quite as much in the Eno River State Park as last year, opting instead for the closer Umstead Park. The latter was a better option for the group, but I’m not sure provided the same level of training we needed.

The medals were hand-made again this year, using a slightly different design. I love these unique race medals. Check out last years review to see the medal from 2017.

As per last year, the food and drink afterward was great! We grabbed a table, and ate and drank as the band played. I have some video of Niles dancing, but she might kill me if I post it.

Friends and family can easily join for the post-race party if desired.

Race Across Durham is a race I look forward to every year now, and I’ll be signing up to run it this year again, no doubt about it. Registration usually opens at the start of July.

The 10 mile course is point-to-point. At the end you need to wait for a bus to transfer you out of the park and back to the start line where the post-race party takes place. This year the transport seemed to take longer — maybe I just got lucky the year before? We were waiting in line for what seemed like an hour to get on a bus. But. we made the most of it….

Race Recap: 2019 Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon

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!

BibRave Pros (left to right): Stacia, Kim, Lissa, TK, Ben, Alastair

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.

With Zach and Jen at the starting line.

The Course

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

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

Pre-Race Thoughts: 2019 Tobacco Road Marathon

Disclaimer: I received free entry to 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!

I still can’t believe this is happening tomorrow. And it scares me that I don’t even know what 26.2 miles actually feels like. My longest run ever is 20 miles, and I struggle to think what an additional hour on my feet will feel like. Guess I’m going to find out soon enough. 😊

Tobacco Road was my first ever half marathon last year, and I can still remember it well. Running on the trail through the trees. Greeting other runners on their return legs. Struggling at the 9th mile. The down-hill finish. The post-race beer.

So, I’m pretty excited that I get to run the race again, one year later, except this time it’s my first full marathon!

I visited the Expo yesterday and picked up my bib. For a local race, it’s one of the largest race Expos in the area. It was well laid out with plenty of vendors, and Jeff Galloway was in attendance (he is running the race on Sunday as well).

For the first time ever I booked myself a post-race massage. I was able to pre-pay which allows me to jump the line. I figured it would increase my chances of waking the next day. 🤣

Thelma, one of our running crew, was at Thomas E Brooks park today and set-up is well underway — the picture at top is the start/finish line, and all important porta-john row is pictured below.

The weather forecast tomorrow is great marathon weather. It’s around 40F when the race starts at 7am. I’m planning to wear shorts and short sleeves, so I’m expecting to be a little cold before it starts. I’ll be the one in an orange shirt, Irish dancing to keep warm.

All my stuff is ready to go for tomorrow. For the first time I have created a music playlist as well. It has a mixture of old favorites and some newer songs to keep me going for 6 hours — hopefully I’ll not need that long though! If you have Apple Music and want to check it out, click here.

Right, it’s about time I started making my way to bed to get plenty of rest. I’m looking forward to meeting some of my fellow BibRave Pros tomorrow!

Marathon Training March Update

Disclaimer: I received free entry to 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!

Well, our marathon training is complete, or (more appropriately) as complete as it’s going to be. I can’t believe it’s over a month since my last marathon update. So much has happened.

I spent three weeks in Ireland with my youngest son, catching up with family. I probably trained at around 75% of what I should have been. I did manage to run 20 miles solo which was a big achievement and something I’ll carry with me on race day.

I also ran a half marathon in Carlingford, Ireland which was just stunning. I wanted to pause along the route to take photos.

If you know me, or follow this blog, you’ll have heard of my vertigo episode a year or so ago which I believe was linked to a long flight and running too soon after landing (doh!). Thankfully, no reoccurrence of this. I made sure to rest a day or two after each flight.

It was nice to get back to North Carolina, because Xander and I missed his mommy and siblings, and it was nice to pick back up training with my running crew.

I wish I could tell you my leg/foot pain has gone away, but it hasn’t. It’s still there, and it’s reduced the total number of miles I should have been running over the last 7 weeks – without a doubt. I bought and have been wearing a tight compression sleeve on it while I run and that has been helping. After the race I may need to go and see a professional about it, as something is not right.

Due to this injury, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do this training cycle is adjust my expectations. I was hoping for a sub-4 finish, but it became increasingly obvious this was not achievable. I guess I will have to plan another marathon after all. 🤣

This will be my last marathon training update for Tobacco Road — the race is tomorrow.

Why do you run, Ciara Cassidy?

About Ciara

Welcome to a blog series called “Why do you run?“. I hope to publish inspiring insights from runners I know, on why they started running and continue to do so.

Ciara and I work for the same company, only she works out of our Craigavon office in the UK. More often than not our work conversations will digress into discussing our latest running plans… 🤣

Why did you start running?

Clears my head and feels good to get some fresh air.

What keeps you motivated?

Just getting some time to myself and de-stress.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt as a runner?

Never give up, a bad run only makes you stronger.

If you couldn’t run, what would you do instead?


What’s your biggest running goal?

Run a sub 2 hour half marathon and a sub 4:30 marathon.

Race Recap: 2019 Carlingford Half Marathon, Ireland

Carlingford in Ireland, County Louth, is nestled at the foot of mountains by the sea. It’s a beautiful Irish village with many historic buildings and even a castle to explore. It also happens to be a great setting for a Half Marathon race.

But I nearly didn’t run it…

There were a number of factors putting me off — communication from race directors wasn’t very clear and the organization seemed a little chaotic (1-3), the weather (4), and an injured running buddy (5).

(1) I wasn’t aware bibs would be mailed to runners (I’d registered with a US address). It took a few attempts to get a reply from race organizers (facebook page was useless), but I eventually got my address updated to my parent’s in Ireland.

(2) The final information communication was late coming out and links to important information looked liked titles in the email. Again, eventually worked through this and got the information I needed.

(3) No parking plan — Carlingford is a tiny village and I wasn’t keen on the idea of driving all the way there and not finding somewhere to park (to be fair, I’m not sure where they could have used as designated parking anyway, and in the end we got parked, so…).

(4) Then there also the weather. The previous year the race had been postponed because of snow. I had high hopes for this year as we were having such good weather in Ireland leading up to the weekend. The night before it was forecast to rain all morning.

(5) My old pal, Brendan, was going to run it with me, but due to a sore calf muscle had to pull out a couple of days before the race.

But I’m SO Glad I did…

The night before Brendan contacted me to tell me he still wanted to go down to Carlingford to support me (and take a nosey around the shops). So I decided to go ahead and run it after all.

We got parked in the village without too much problem and even had time to grab a scone and explore before the race start at 10am. Most races in the US start really early in the morning (7am-8am), so the 10am start was nice.

I was so glad I hadn’t bailed on this race. Thanks to Brendan for giving me the extra push I needed. I would have regretted not running it regardless of the result. It is such a picturesque setting to run. I wanted to stop and take photos so many times.

How did it go?

There were 863 finishers for the half. I placed rather dismally in 627th place with a gun time of 2:01:11. Not my slowest half by any means, but I was hoping for something a little better.

The first three miles were up hill — nothing major, but continuous it seemed like and in my opinion not “gentle” as described on the website. The hills took us through the village and out into the countryside.

It was an OPEN road race. I’d not experienced that before. I know we have open road races in the US, but this race was on roads with barely enough room for two cars to pass.

In saying that, although we had cars passing and pulling into the middle of the runners, it didn’t seem to affect the race. It certainly didn’t ruin my experience in any way, and did not feel dangerous.

Miles 4-11 went great — sub 9 pace — I was feeling good. The rain that was forecast hadn’t arrived yet. The sea front section was windy, but a large part of that the wind was blowing from behind which was great.

At mile 10, the rain came. It wasn’t heavy and I welcomed it. In fact it could have started raining at mile 3 and I would have been happy.

Things went bad at miles 12-13. My legs started to feel really heavy. They were probably still recovering from the 20 miles the week before. I started to struggle with side-stitches and then backache. At mile 12.5 I actually stopped to walk and stretch it out a little.

A lady ran past and shouted, “You can’t stop now!”. She was right. That give me the motivation I needed to pick up my legs and finish.

I do wish it would have been easier. I would have at least come away feeling better about running a full marathon in two weeks.

Why do you run, Zach Koontz?

About Zach

Welcome to a blog series called “Why do you run?“. I hope to publish inspiring insights from runners I know, on why they started running and continue to do so.

Zach is a good friend from church. When he moved to Morrisville and decided to enter a half Ironman, we (MRC) were able to help him train — for the running part. He’s got to know our wacky running family through the process and isn’t able to leave. Now we’re all training to run our first full marathon together. 🤣

Why did you start running?

I have ran off an on for a few years. I would say I committed to running January 2018 in order to train for a half iron man. After the race I decided to keep running as my primary type of exercise.

What keeps you motivated?

My run group is a huge place of inspiration and accountability. We encourage each other and compete to get more fit, faster, and to enjoy runs even on the cold, raining, snowy days.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt as a runner?

The exercise is only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the benefits of running. The time and energy spent on a run can be so life giving. The headspace and clarity achieved during a run can be profound. For me so often a run can is so much more than a run.

If you couldn’t run, what would you do instead?

Mountain bike. Any chance I could.

What’s your biggest running goal?

To run a marathon under four hours. Ultimately, the goal is to continue running, making it a lifelong practice for body, mind, and spirit.