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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k race 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!
This was my second year running the Hot Chocolate 15k in Charlotte (read about first year here). What better way to kick off this review with a big picture of the hot chocolate bowl packed with goodies for dipping. It ain’t called the Hot Chocolate 15k for nothing!
As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I couldn’t get out of work on time to reach the Expo, so I had Liz’s and my pack mailed out to us – this is such an excellent service. The packs arrived a couple of weeks before the race, and just like last year, the race shirts are amazing.
The post-race party venue was changed to First Ward Park this year, which also moved the start and finish lines. The new party location was much better. It was much more accessible, and better laid out.
Another improvement this year was the addition of some hot food. And it was so delicious. Liz and I grabbed some and stood under a toasty gas heater and chatted to some other runners for a while.
The race course changed this year. We ran outside the city (much like last year), except we used some greenway (paved trails) this time to move between neighborhoods. The Charlotte neighborhoods reminded very much of Durham, North Carolina.
I felt like the new course was also hillier than last year. When I compared the elevation gain to last years on Strava, it was indeed hillier, but not by a crazy amount.
There were plenty of aid stations on course, serving water, sports drink and chocolate! Thankfully there were porta-johns near each station, as I had to make a stop at mile 2 — and that is when I lost my 8:30/mi pacer. 😦
I came in around 3 minutes later than last year. I was hoping to see an improvement, but it wasn’t to be.
The medals were different this year. Previously every Hot Chocolate medal was the same, regardless of the city that hosted it. There was an additional “charm” added to the medal to identify the city. This year they incorporated the city name into the medal itself.
Race photos again this year were free — which is super! Who doesn’t love free race photos. I didn’t see many photographers on the course except near the finish. I don’t always look my best at the finish line. 😉
While it was free to download low-res versions of the photos, there was a $2.99 charge to download high-res copies. That is still good bang for your buck if you consider what other races charge for photos.
Liz and I stayed at the AC Hotel Charlotte City Center. It was a lovely hotel, with a fantastic rooftop bar and was only a couple of blocks from First Ward Park. I’d definitely stay there again, whether I’m racing Hot Chocolate, or just want a short city break.
There were a few other BibRave Pros racing Hot Chocolate Charlotte this year, so we all got together before the race to catch-up and take a group photo. Just look at all that Orange!
Disclaimer: I received a Zwift runpod to review 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!
Even though I get to travel to London every 2-3 years, I’ve never actually ran in the city itself, around all the great sights. I’ve wanted to, even planned some routes along the Thames, but it has never worked out.
Zwift started out as a cycling platform, allowing cyclists to meet in virtual environments to train and compete.
This same concept has recently been extended to runners. All you need to get started is a free Zwift account, a treadmill and a compatible foot pod (unless you have a fancy-smancy Bluetooth enabled treadmill).
Get 15% off a Zwift runpod with code BIBCHAT15 (first 1000 orders).
I’m not a treadmill fan at all, and rarely log any miles on one, except for a warm-up mile before working out at the gym. I find treadmill running very mundane, and struggle to run long distances on them.
After trying Zwift, my treadmill warm-up runs increased from one mile, to 3-4 miles. The Zwift environments, even though I’m using it on my small iPhone screen, are quite immersive and take your mind off the treadmill.
Unfortunately I was not able to test using a larger screen (computer or large-screen TV, etc.). If I had a home treadmill I would put together a set-up with a larger screen because I think that would be amazing.
BibRave Virtual Run
It was really fun to meet up with all my BibRave people across the globe and run together in Watopia — a fantasy island created by the people at Zwift. I was able to see everyone who had joined and send messages via a chat screen.
Again, this is where a computer or larger computer would really come into play. You need good eyesight to read the messages on a tiny iPhone screen — especially when running!
We ran 5K together in a number of different pace groups. I signed up for my chosen pace group in advance using the Zwift companion app. When I got to the gym early, I started a normal run, and when it was time it automatically switched me over to the BibRave run.
Running Through London
One of my favorite Zwift runs was when I was able to run around some of the streets in London. While I’m not from London, and didn’t recognize where I was at times, the feel is still very London, with red phone boxes and double-decker buses, etc.
Another thing I noticed on this run is that some routes have options to turn one direction or another, or if you like, turn a complete 180 and run back the way you came.
Syncing With Running Apps
When you’re finished, your run will upload to Zwift by default. You can check your past run history using the Zwift Companion app. It is also possible to upload your run to other running apps like Garmin and Strava.
This is a really great feature as it will send the GPS coordinates and map details to your favorite running app. I chose not to use this as my pace differs quite a lot on a treadmill, and I’m so used to using my watch to track my runs anyway.
Now, every time I visit the gym, I don’t leave the house without my runpod attached to my shoe. If I owned a treadmill at home I would be using Zwift way more frequently, and on a bigger screen.
Zwift also have several training programs built-in to the app as well which guide you through your runs.
The running platform is still relatively new, and I recommend you try it out while it’s free to run (the cycling accounts require a subscription).
Disclaimer: I received a NATHAN Luna Fire 250 RX to review 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’m excited for any new products that will help me train safer outdoors. I was happy to try out a new product from NATHAN called the Luna Fire 250 RX. It’s a lightweight LED flashlight designed to be worn on the chest or waist.
It comes with an adjustable strap that the light clips on to. This gives you total freedom — use the strap, or clip the light on to existing belts, or items of clothing. It’s entirely up to you!
I’ve tested the light quite a few times now and it’s so bright. There are different brightness levels, up to 250 lumens, plus a strobe option which I did not use while running.
From the two positions the light is designed for, wearing it at chest level worked best for me. At waist level it bounced around a lot more and a couple of times fell off the strap.
While wearing on the chest still generates a bit of bounce, it is so bright that it doesn’t really matter. The light can be tilted down allowing you to choose how far ahead it shines on your path.
One of the things I love about this product, aside from how bright it is, is that I can recharge it via USB. It takes 3 hours to charge from empty and will last for hours (actual burn time will depend on the mode selected).
I’ll definitely keep on using this light as I train for my first Marathon next year. I’ll be training throughout the winter and this provides so much visibility when running the American Tobacco Trail.
Recently we were asked to come up with a 90 second (max) video for a Bibboards campaign that I was involved in for BibRave. As a BibRave Pro, I get to test out various running products and run races in exchange for reviews on my blog and social media channels.
Bibboards are plastic fasteners that secure your race bib to your shirt without damaging the shirt. They are also much less fiddly than safety pins and don’t need a lot of readjusting that come with that.
My favorite feature however, is the fact you can get your own logo or text printed to them using their online designer.
Here’s the song I wrote for the campaign. I got the idea from the actual bibboards packaging, which had the hash-tag #nopinrev printed on it.
The first cut of the song was just over 2 minutes, so I had to remove a verse and some of the outro to make it fit to the required 90 seconds.
It’s been a while since I’ve had my guitar out and actually wrote anything, so this was a fun (but scary) project for me.
On a cold, crisp October morning, a few friends and I headed into Durham, NC for the Bull City Race Fest Half Marathon.
It was my fourth half marathon (1-Tobacco Road; 2-Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh; 3-Umstead Half) this year and to be honest, I wasn’t feeling in good shape for it — not compared to my fitness levels back in March. Training through the summer in North Carolina was not easy with the constant humidity.
My running buddy, Zach, had ran the course a couple of years back, his first half marathon in fact, and confirmed all the reports I’d been hearing of its hills. I’d only ran the 5 mile course before and was looking forward to the half.
I’ve never really been deterred from entering a race because of hills. I simply adjust my expectations based on it.
Zach had yet to run a half marathon in under two hours, so my plan was to run a steady pace together and push him to a PR. After our hilly half marathon at Umstead, back in June, I knew this may not be easy (for me!).
The race started according to our plan. For the first mile we hovered in around 9:00/mi. If we kept this up and we’ll rock in just under the goal time.
I checked my watch at Mile 2 — 8:40/mi. We probably need to slow down a little bit, we thought. Nope, miles 3-6 flew by easy at the same pace. Yikes! We were going too fast! We were too concerned about catching up with AJ, who shot off like a rocket at the start.
At mile 6 we eventually caught up with AJ. That’s when the first of the hills started rolling in. Mile 7, while not the toughest hill-wise, was our slowest at 9:04/mi, but all was still good. Runners are always doing the math in their heads. We had time to spare.
My fueling plan was the usual, Gatorade Endurance gel pack every 45 mins, and a drink of water at every other aid station. This didn’t go exactly to plan.
I waited a little too long for the first gel pack which maybe explains mile 7. There were some hills during the last third of the course, so I took another one around mile 9.
Mile 9 is when I usually start to suffer in a half marathon, but this time I didn’t feel that. I felt much stronger than normal. The last third of the course hardly slowed our efforts at all. Maybe all that training in North Carolina’s humidity prepared me for this after all?
Again, doing the math, we rocked into mile 10 with big grins on our faces. We knew we had this race in the bag. It would take a really bad 5K now to miss our goal time.
In a final what the heck moment, I consumed an additional gel at mile 12 for the last stretch!
The course kept throwing hills at us in the last couple of miles, but my last two miles were my fastest on the course. I kept my eyes on the prize — the cold beverages at the end.
A lot of our team walked away with HUGE PRs — #breaking2 baby! 😉 Did Zach and I smash our goal? Of course we did! We came in well under the 2 hour goal. Turned out to be my 2nd fastest half marathon after Tobacco Road.
I’m so happy about that. It definitely helped me overcome my summer training slump and restored some confidence as I reach for bigger goals next year.