Sunday, May 31, 2009

Finish a 5K ... in total darkness

Ever get tired of waking up at the crack of dawn for those Saturday-a.m. races?

Well, here's a 5K that might pique the interest of anyone who's more of a night owl than a morning person: the 12th annual China Grove 5K Main Street Challenge, set to go off on Friday, June 12 ... at 9 p.m.

Not surprisingly, it'll be a small race, but the unique start time could be a draw -- especially for runners who live north of the city. (China Grove -- the town, not the Doobie Brothers song -- is about 40 minutes from uptown, just north of Kannapolis off I-85.)

David Freeze, president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners, says the race "really is a unique environment, starting in twilight and finishing in total darkness. The course is fairly fast too, an out and back on Main Street. No hills."

So why 9 o'clock at night?

"This race is 12 years old and originally coincided with a town event called 'Farmers Day' held on Saturday," says race director Aaron Crowe. "Because of all the vendors set up in the streets during Farmers Day, they ran the race at night on Friday and had Farmers Day on Saturday morning. The two events have since become separate events (about a month apart), but there seems to be something about a night race that people enjoy. The YMCA took over the race aboutnine years ago and liked the format."

Runners can expect fresh watermelon and cantaloupe along with other refreshments at the finish line, and proceeds from the race benefit the YMCA of Rowan County's "Invest in Youth" program. Cost is $25. Says Freeze: "Registration is good, up from previous years at this point. We are confident that we will get over 300 runners."

For the race brochure, click here. To register, click here.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Run for Peace a washout? No way

169 women head off down the trail after an Elvis impersonator got the Charlotte Run for Peace at Home started.

I don't know if organizers of the Charlotte Run for Peace at Home were singing the "rain, rain, go away" song earlier this week, but if they were ... well, it worked.

Not only were the 306 people who ran the 5K at McAlpine Creek Greenway greeted Saturday morning by sunny skies and temps in the very-agreeable mid-60s, the trails were virtually puddle- and mud-free -- astonishing considering all the rain we got in the first half of the week.

So first of all, kudos to the volunteers and the McAlpine folks for the great manicuring job they did. All that work, invisible to the participants, prevented the Run for Peace from being a messy, treacherous run.

It was my first visit to McAlpine, and I can safely say that if I didn't live 30 minutes away, I'd come back often. The course was circuitous but serene, and though the sun beat down on us as we traversed parts of the path around the pond twice during the second half of the race, much of the 3.1-mile route was completely shaded from the sun.

Most of it was flat, although about halfway through runners turned a corner and were suddenly confronted by a nasty little hill that at first I thought I might need a ladder to climb. The steep grade wound upwards rapidly -- and then seemed to drop back down even faster; footing was fortunately fairly stable, but you had to either do the quick-step on the descent, or suffer some serious pounding on the ol' knees.

The men's and women's start times were staggered by 30 minutes, and that made sense, given the narrowness of the trails. What didn't make sense was seeing a handful of men going off at 8:30 with the women. Also, hate to say it, but I don't think strollers should have been allowed. In one case, we saw a man and a woman pushing babies side by side in the women's heat, and it really clogged things up for runners trying to get by.

Runners circle the pond at McAlpine Creek Greenway on Saturday morning.

As for the amenities: Three porta-potties sufficed -- I never saw more than half a dozen or so people lined up. Bottled water and snacks were plentiful, though the area where all the sponsors' booths were located was the one place that was a little muddy. T-shirts are OK (not great, not bad), but the swag came in eco-friendly reusable grocery bags, and it was hard to complain about the full-size Snickers bars and bags of M&Ms tucked inside them.

I also liked the age-group winners' trophies, which were faux-cast-iron runners with bobbleheads (I actually got one of my own, for finishing third in the 35-39 group!). One complaint: Took awhile to get to the awards ceremony. It was originally scheduled for 9:15; not sure when it finally ended, but I had to hustle off right after I collected mine (to make it to a softball game), and we got into our car at 9:57 a.m. Ugh.

But in general, a fun experience. I'm really developing a soft spot for these more-intimate races, where you tend to run into a lot of other runners you know and the crowds are so small that organizers can make announcements without even having to use a megaphone.

I met several great people, including Jay Holder and Aaron Linz, two of the founding members of the new Charlotte Running Club I blogged about this week. They were the second- and third-fastest overall men (and Jay had a cold!), finishing in 16:21 and 16:29, respectively. My 8-year-old daughter was very impressed by how many readers of this blog approached me to say "Hello," and so was I.

A great morning for a very nice race. If you ran it, hope you had fun, too. Results are here, by the way.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Speedy runner? Join the Club

Got an e-mail today from Jason Holder, a local distance runner who recently was involved in the launch of the Charlotte Running Club -- which, he says, is modeled after clubs in cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York.

"Our goal is to provide training and race opportunities for people in the Charlotte area who serious about distance running. ... Several of our founding members are already affiliated with the teams run by specialty stores, so we don't want to interfere with that, but we do want to get Charlotte's most passionate and competitive runners together in one group.

"We think this area has a unique and diversified running community, and this is our opportunity to capitalize on that."

Ultimately, Holder says they'd like the club to be USA Track & Field certified.

Requirements for membership are rigorous: Men, for instance, need an official time of 19 minutes or faster in a 5K, or 3:15 or faster in a marathon; women can qualify with a 43-minute or faster 10K, or a 1:45 or better half-marathon time.

So, needless to say, if you get into the club, you won't be able to claim yours truly as a fellow member! But it's a great idea, and I hope that if you're fast enough (and serious enough about running), you'll look into lending these guys your support.

Click here to visit the Charlotte Running Club Web site, or check them out on Facebook by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Run for Peace at Home update

Earlier today, a friend who knows that I'm running Saturday's Charlotte Run for Peace at Home at McAlpine Creek Greenway warned me that the course might be holding onto a lot of the rainwater we've gotten over the past several days.

So I e-mailed race president Zac Reilly and asked him whether I should wear older running shoes and expect to get wet. He replied:

"I personally went out there on Tuesday morning (right after most of the hard rain had passed) ... . There were occasional instances of puddles, and the hill is a slight concern because there's been some run-off. Overall the course looked really good -- even after all that. McAlpine does a great job of keeping the course manicured before our event."

He added: "Personally, I would wear my good shoes regardless, but you can expect that there may be puddles. The good news is that the water in the puddles at McAlpine tends to be more on the clear side than muddy. This is due to the fact that the course is sprinkled with gravel."

Nearly 300 runners are registered for the race. Reilly said that could soar to 500 to 600 if the weather cooperates. (Shoot, there would go my chance at a medal!) Online registration has closed, but you can still register for $30 on race day. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Charlotte soldier wins marathon in Iraq

Thanks to Run for Your Life, Kathryn Abernethy, and Observer staffer Franco Ordonez for getting this one in my hands:

John Marotta won the first "Shadow" Los Angeles Marathon in Iraq on Memorial Day in 3:36. Marotta is from Charlotte and was a former member of the Sheriff's Department and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The marathon and half-marathon took place at Camp Taji, about 20 miles north of Baghdad, and was run by about 400 U.S. soldiers. A fundraiser created to honor fallen soldiers, the event was supported by the L.A. Marathon, which sent T-shirts, race bibs, medals and a finish banner.

Because of the triple-digit temperatures, the report I read said 20 water stations were set up along the 13.1-mile gravel loop course. Also, runners apparently had to dodge scorpions and poisonous snakes, so 14 medical personnel and four different ambulances were standing by.

Remember this the next time you whine about bad race-day weather, or rough course conditions!

Monday, May 25, 2009

And we're off to the races ...

Below are a half-dozen opportunities to get out there this Saturday and do some running for a variety of good causes -- mostly south of Charlotte (although there is one race up north).

While these are mainly 5Ks, there's also a half-marathon in the mix; and although these are primarily road races, a couple of trail runs are out there for fans of more-natural surfaces. Kid-friendly races abound, and there are a couple of brand-new races launching this weekend.

Anyway, let's get to it.

Charlotte Run for Peace at Home
What: 5K trail run, children's fun run/walk.
When: Men's start at 8 a.m., women's at 8:30 a.m. Fun run follows at 9 a.m.
Cost: $30; fun run is free.
Where: McAlpine Creek Greenway, 8711 Monroe Road in Charlotte (just a couple miles from Matthews).
Why: Proceeds benefit anti-domestic violence programs in the Charlotte area, and the motto of the 15-year-old race is "Peace begins at home."
Of note: Target audience here is anyone who enjoys small cross-country events: Last year's race featured just 260 runners. The scenic trail consists of both open flats and challenging hills. Oh, and I'm running this one!
Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

Miles of Hope
What: 5K and 1-mile fun run (inaugural event).
When: 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively.
Cost: $25/$15.
Where: Winthrop University athletic campus, 1162 Eden Terrace, Rock Hill (start line near the coliseum).
Why: Proceeds benefit Regency Hospice's not-for-profit foundation, which provides care for needy patients.
Of note: First 150 registrants will receive a Dri-Fit T-shirt. In addition to awards for top-3 finishers by age group, other prizes will be raffled off after the race (so hold onto your bib!).
Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

RLJ Be the Match
What: 5K run/walk (inaugural event).
When: 8 a.m.
Cost: $20 in advance, $25 on race day.
Where: 14500 Grand Palisades Pkwy., just south of Lake Wylie, near the York County line (though still within Charlotte). Start and finish is at the Charlotte United soccer fields.
Why: Run in memory of Robert Lawrence Johnson, the race benefits the National Marrow Donor Program, which matches leukemia and lymphoma sufferers with potential bone marrow donors.
Of note: The 5K's slogan -- "run some hills for a great cause" -- also alludes to the rolling course along the Grand Palisades Parkway. Strollers and children are welcome; pets aren't. Free massages afterward.
Official site: Click here. To register: Click here.

ASC Greenway Trail Run
What: Half marathon/5-miler.
When: 7:30 a.m. and 7:40 a.m., respectively.
Cost: $10 through Wednesday, $20 on race day.
Where: On the trails of the Anne Springs Close Greenway, Coltharp Road and US 21 Bypass in Fort Mill.
Why: $5 from each entry will be donated to the ASC Greenway.
Of note: The entire course is unpaved single-track trails; surfaces include dirt/gravel roads, horse trails, and multiple swinging bridge crossings.
To register: Click here.

Tega Cay Military Memorial
What: 5K and 1-mile family fun run.
When: 8 a.m. and 8:05 a.m., respectively.
Cost: $30 ($35 on race day) for the 5K; $7 ($15 with T-shirt) for the fun run.
Where: Tega Cay Golf Club, 1 Molokai Drive in Tega Cay.
Why: 25 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Tega Cay Parks and Recreation Department.
Of note: Awards will be presented for "the most original running attire in honor of our military heroes." The entire course will be run on the golf cart path (asphalt surface).
To register: Click here.

UpGrade Lifestyle
What: 5K and kids fun run.
When: 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively.
Cost: $25; fun run is free.
Where: Birkdale Residents' Club, 8915 Devonshire Drive, Huntersville.
Why: Not sure, although checks need to be made payable to "Birkdale HOA."
Of note: 5K is an out-and-back course on Devonshire Road. The kids fun run will be held on the grassy fields at the Residents' Club; distances are one quarter-mile to one mile long, depending on age.
To register: Click here.

Running one of these races on Saturday? Which one, and why?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

If you need an excuse to start running ...

Since I started running last September, I've inspired/influenced a few others to do the same.

Among them: My wife -- who previously had walked for exercise, has walk-run five 5Ks, and now can just about go three miles without stopping; a friend -- who completed his first 10K (the Cooper River Bridge Run) in April; that friend's girlfriend -- who has done a 10K and a 5K in the past month and a half; and Observer staffer Sarah Aarthun (two 10Ks, two 5Ks since February).

But there are certainly people in my life who haven't succumbed to the peer pressure I've applied ... in large part because there are a million excuses that someone can use if they don't want to run.

"No time" is a common one -- although all it requires is ditching 30 minutes of TV and/or Facebooking every other day. "Too boring" is another -- although getting off the treadmill, out of the gym, and onto a variety of urban or suburban streets and roads can cure that. "Too hot"? That's what early mornings and evenings are for, and why things like water and technical fibers exist.

I could go on and on with this type of list. I mean, I used plenty of these excuses myself for 15 years.

Thing is, it's so easy to start running. All you need is a pair of comfortable sneakers and, well, frankly, an excuse. A desire to be more healthy, or more active, or more competitive, or more goal-driven, or tanned, or more -- whatever.

Need a more-formal kick in the butt? There's always National Running Day. The new initiative, scheduled for Wednesday, June 3, joins National Run@Work Day and National Run a Mile Day as ways to promote the joys and benefits of running.

National Running Day isn't going to change the world. But I bring it up for two reasons: 1) The site has some helpful tips for novice runners, and -- while they're not terribly original -- a couple are valuable enough that I wanted to share them (below), and 2) I'd like to invite anyone who's game to participate in a 3-mile group run (pace: easy), starting and ending at the Observer building uptown in the late afternoon or early evening of June 3. (Details to come, but if you're interested, shoot me an e-mail by clicking here.)

Here are those beginners' tips:

It’s okay to walk. Begin your first workouts with 15 minutes of alternating walking and jogging: Walk for five minutes, then run easily for two or three minutes; repeat. If you are comfortable jogging from the start, that's fine, but do not run the entire time even if you think you can. Don't worry about the distance you cover. On your third or fourth workout, try increasing your time to 20 minutes. After three or four more workouts, move to 25 minutes, then after another three or four workouts, try a 30-minute continuous run. Don't force yourself to go farther or faster than what feels comfortable to you. The idea is to keep running regularly, and you're more likely to do that if you’re enjoying yourself and looking forward to your next run.

Aim for a race. Pick an event that's at least six weeks in the future. An ideal distance for your first race would be 5K (3.1 miles) or four miles. This is short enough so that you can truly be ready for your first effort, and long enough to give you the sense of accomplishment that will fuel your future running. Your goal should be to finish, enjoy the event, and look ahead. Start at the back of the pack, hold yourself back at the start, and run within your comfort range. If your time was slow, that's good -- now you have a base from which to improve.
Want to read the full list? Click here.

So ... what's your excuse for running? Or for not running?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What to do with old running shoes?

Q. In addition to race T-shirts, I often find I have a pile of running shoes filling my closet. Even though I've run a few hundred miles on them, they are still in pretty good non-running shape.

I recently gave a few pairs to a homeless shelter, but I'm curious what other options are out there. I'm sure there are a ton of runners out there who have stacks of pairs in their closet. Most probably toss them in the garbage because they don't know what else to do. Ideas?

A. I wish I'd gotten this e-mail (which came from a co-worker) two weeks ago, because it was about that long ago that I threw a pair of old shoes in the trash myself without really thinking about it. Anyway, I asked around and got a couple of tips from local retailers that I'll use next time -- and that I hope you'll consider when you're in the same situation.

Tim Rhodes, owner of Run For Your Life, says that his stores offer "a $5 credit toward your purchase of a new pair of running shoes if you turn in a pair of 'gently used' running shoes at the time of purchase. These shoes are then donated to Samaritan’s Feet and they take the shoes to Africa and put them on the feet of folks over there who do not have shoes."

Tim points out that "the offer is good for $5 per visit (10 pairs of shoes won't get you a $50 credit) and 'gently used' implies that they have basically been worn to run in and, while they may have lost their usefulness for running, they are in otherwise good condition (no used yard shoes, please). Any kind of gently used shoes are accepted whether or not they are running shoes."

Meanwhile, Joe Soehnlen, customer relations executive for TrySports - Charlotte, said his stores "accept shoe donations ... and we give them to Deserving Soles. It is a pretty excellent organization and they are really trying to make a difference."

If you want to investigate even more options, check out this article on Runner's World's Web site. It was published almost three years ago now, but pretty much all of the organizations listed still accept used running shoes and put them toward really worthy causes.

Do you know of other ways to get old running shoes in the hands of needy folks? Please share them in the comments section!

Friday, May 22, 2009

He slept in a porta-potty? Why??

A little behind on this, since my issue of Runner's World arrived so late to my mailbox this month, but ...

... did you see the little story on Page 24 about the Charlotte kid who SLEPT IN A PORTA-POTTY the night before he won a race down in S.C.??

Here's the item:

Justin Weber, 18, a college freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina, couldn't afford a hotel stay before the Folly Beach 10-Miler near Charleston, South Carolina, in November. A rainstorm kept him from camping outside. So Weber spent the night in a porta-potty. The cramped quarters didn't hurt his race time: He won in 1:02.

"I sat on the seat lid and leaned back against the wall. I actually got a good night's sleep. The stall was clean, and I was right by the beach, so it was soothing listening to the waves."
This begs oh-so-many questions, Justin my man. Among them:
  • How did you get from here to there in the first place? Apparently not by driving yourself -- otherwise, you would have slept in your car AND NOT TWO FEET ABOVE FESTERING PILES OF ... well, you know what.
  • College requires money. 3.5 hours of travel requires money. Training yourself to run at a speed of 10 miles per hour for 62 minutes -- somewhere along the way, that kind of dedication requires money. Could you or your parents not have sprung for, at minimum, a Wal-Mart pup tent? Short of that, I mean, aren't there bridges or awnings that provide shelter from the rain in Folly Beach?
  • A "clean" porta-potty? Isn't that an oxymoron? I can barely stand to be in one for 30 seconds without puking in my mouth. A whole night??
  • Do you know why you've never opened the door of a porta-potty to find a homeless person sleeping on the seat? (OK, I'll take this one myself: Because even they're not that desperate.)
Hey, the dude won the race, so I guess you can only give the guy so much, well, crap (pardon the pun). But that's some pretty crazy ... er ... stuff, huh? Have you ever done anything insane in the name of running?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Got a 5K jones? Try Bare Bones

After I mentioned the Bare Bones 5K in Salisbury in yesterday's blog entry, I got an e-mail from Salisbury Rowan Runners Club president David Freeze with more info about this weekend's race. He writes:

The 5K starts at 8:30 a.m. THIS Saturday at Knox Middle School off Mahaley Street. All runners will get a Dri-Fit shirt, a finisher's medal, and plenty of food. Registration is $15 through Friday (pre-register at or $20 on race day. The course is flat, with one hill a block long. There is also a free ½-mile fun run for kids.

Runners who donate used shoes and canned goods will be entered for chance to win a pair of new running shoes from Vac & Dash in Albemarle. A portion of the proceeds will go to Rowan Helping Ministries, a local homeless shelter.

This is the eighth annual event. The race was started as way for the Salisbury Rowan Runners Club to give back to the running community, and is put on with very little sponsorship. We are very appreciative of all the runners and walkers who enter our events throughout the year.
Want more info on the Bare Bones 5K? Call 704-239-5508.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On your mark, get set, EAT!

The Raleigh-Durham area's active community is going to have a lot more fun than Charlotte's this weekend. Though there's the Belmont Police Department's Belmont Classic 5K and the Bare Bones 5K in Salisbury (both on Saturday), the Queen City proper goes dark for Memorial Day Weekend.

Not so over in the Triangle. On Saturday afternoon, there's the SkirtChaser 5K in Raleigh -- which you've probably heard by now is as much a party as it is a race. But on Saturday morning, there'll be another gimmicky-but-fun-sounding race that will have "extreme" amateur athletes romping through the streets.

Here's a report on Durham's Doughman race, courtesy of Andrea Weigl, food writer at the News & Observer in Raleigh:

If you are looking for some entertainment Saturday morning, Durham's second annual Doughman race is sure to provide interesting viewing.

The 2009 Doughman is a team-relay quadrathlon, combining competitive eating with a traditional triathlon. Fifty-one four-person teams will eat at a series of five Durham restaurants followed by either running, biking or an aquatic activity.

And there is a television star on one of the teams: Adam Richman, the star of The Travel Channel's "Man v. Food" will be fielding a team for an episode of the show. Richman visited the Triangle not long ago, filming at Time-Out Restaurant in Chapel Hill and The Pit and The Roast Grill in Raleigh earlier this year.

The event starts at 8 a.m. at Blu Seafood and Bar at 2002 Hillsborough Road and ends at the Durham Farmers' Market at Durham Central Park. The eating stops include Blu Seafood, Four Square Restaurant, Nosh, Dain's Place and Daisy Cakes.

All proceeds will benefit South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS) and Durham Inner-city Gardeners (DIG).

If you can't participate or watch, you could still attend Saturday night’s banquet at Durham's Central Park from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. A $20 ticket gets you an evening of food, drink and entertainment. Tickets can be purchased at the Web site or at the SEEDS booth at the Durham Farmers' Market.

The 2008 Doughman champions. Photo from N&O columnist Joe Miller's Get Out! Get Fit! blog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's your favorite distance?

Yesterday, I posted this status update on Facebook: "My favorite distance: 5 miles. Substantial enough so I can eat 2 Pop Tarts later sans guilt, but over before it gets boring. Your favorite distance?"

I was intrigued by the mini-discussion it sparked, so I thought I'd toss it open to you guys. Among the responses:

  • "I agree! Five miles is just enough to justify some reward ... ."
  • "Five is good, but I like to push it just a bit farther to claim the 10K mark."
  • "Ten miles! That way you can treat yourself and drink all the beer you want!!!"
  • "I think it's a half-marathon ... . The thing I like about it: it's a good challenge and takes some dedication, but it doesn't take out of you what a marathon does."
  • "26.2. Nothing beats the awesome challenge of 25-plus miles. Least favorite: 5K. Way too painful."
Now, personally, my favorite race distance is the half. When I made that my FB status, I was more thinking of your regular old garden-variety morning run.

But let's get it all out there. What's your favorite race distance? And/or what distance makes for the most satisfying morning/afternoon/evening run?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Traveling for a race this summer?

I've traveled for races three times this year -- meaning that I planned out-of-town trips specifically around running events.

The first was Raleigh's Krispy Kreme Challenge in February (don't ask how it went). The second was Atlanta's ING Georgia Marathon in March (I ran the half). And the most recent was Charleston's Cooper River Bridge Run in April (10K PR for me!).

Although my family's been in the Charlotte area since 2006, these were my first visits to each of those cities. I'd heard there's no better way to get to know a city than to run through it, and I can now matter-of-factly report: You're damn skippy it is.

Today, I'm signing up for another out-of-state race. Only this time, I'm planning the race around the trip. In fact, as soon as we decided to make a trip to visit my wife's parents in Overland Park, Kan., for the Fourth of July, I checked online to see if there would be a race going on while we're there ... and found a July 4-themed 5K being run just a few miles from their front door.

In this case, I'm not registering for the Lenexa Freedom Run because I'm eager to get to know Lenexa, Kan. -- happy to make its acquaintance, but frankly I don't have it on my "Top 10 cities I hope to someday run a race in" list.

But I'm taking the advice of an old college buddy, who says that whenever he travels, he tries to find a race to run. And why not? Meet a few new people, have fun and be enlightened, and -- perhaps most importantly -- prevent myself from totally turning into a slug while on vacation.

Are you running any out-of-town races this summer? Are you planning your trip around the race, or did you book your travel and then start looking for an event?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

SkirtChaser: Your questions answered

Up for a party this weekend? Er, I mean, for a race?

The SkirtChaser 5K takes place this Saturday afternoon in Raleigh, with women's start at 5 p.m., the men beginning their pursuit at 5:03, and the "Block Party" -- featuring a fashion show, dating games and lots and lots of beer -- kicking off 12 minutes after that. (All the details about the race/fest are here.)

Earlier today, I connected with SkirtChaser Series Coordinator Sage Grossi to get more details on the fun-loving, female-empowering Memorial Day Weekend event:

Q. How many people are registered, and what number do you expect to get to by race day?
Right now, 450 are registered. At this rate we expect just over 600. We get a lot of day-of sign ups with a 5K.

Q. Does the race typically draw more girls, more guys, or is it about equal?
Typically more women. We are at 70/30 on average for women vs. guys … . [So] come on out guys! The odds are great.

Q. Pretend I'm a critic of the race, and respond to this statement: "What a sexist idea for a race! Doesn't this set the women's movement back 30 years?"
No way! The concept of our race is to promote women’s fitness, style and confidence. Our mission is to empower women through looking good and feeling good. You can run fast, sweat and look good doing it. The purpose of incorporating the guys is to not leave out the men in our lives. We want them to have some fun, too.

Q. Personally, I think the concept is superfun and the experience sounds like a blast. How much different is the mood/atmosphere at the SkirtChaser than it is at a typical 5K? Are runners friendlier? Flirtier? Louder? More obnoxious?
Our race is more about the post-race party than the run itself. That is what makes this event so different than a typical 5K. It is an evening start time (5 p.m.) with the finish line funneling all the runners right into the party with live music, free beer, food and entertainment. I would describe our atmosphere as exciting and very social!

Q. Who's winning the battle of the sexes at the Raleigh race, the guys or the girls (i.e. have there been more male or female winners since the race started there?)?
Across the U.S., more women have won the race, but last year in Raleigh a "SkirtChaser" won. I hear he may return to [attempt] another victory.

Q. What's the course like? Flat? Hilly?
The course is surprisingly hilly for Raleigh.

Q. Alright, so when is Charlotte going to get a SkirtChaser race??
We are working on expanding our 2010 series to include 10 additional locations … you never know when the SkirtChaser Series will arrive in your town. If not -- it is worth the travel to the nearest one.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A stroke of very bad luck

As you read this, my wedding ring is sitting at the bottom of Lake Norman.

Here's how it got there:

1. Coming up on 10 years ago, my wife and I picked out a "platinum" band for me for about $150, in an effort to save money for our "exotic" Rhode Island honeymoon. Within a few months, its shape had warped to "fit" my finger, and to this day is slightly oval.

2. As someone who's mildly claustrophobic, I got into the habit of not wearing it at home. (I also ditch my Tag Heuer within 60 seconds of walking through the door in the evening.)

3. I started running in September. Then, in January, I joined a running group.

5. A co-worker and I talked each other into signing up for the Tri Latta Triathlon held at Latta Park in June. The funny thing is, at the time, I didn't own a bike. And I hadn't been swimming for exercise -- well, ever. So ...

6. I bought a road bike. I bought swim gear. I started riding. I started going to the pool. Although, when I say "I started going to the pool," I mean I've been to the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center three times in the past three weeks. (In other words, my training has been pretty casual. It may in fact barely qualify as training.)

7. Meanwhile, the co-worker I registered for Tri Latta with decided to drop out. Fortunately, I know three other people -- including two in my running group -- who are also training for it. Unfortunately, their training makes my training look like ... well, I'll put it this way: Their training has not been casual. Lots of time in the pool. Lots of time on the bike. And on top of it all, they somehow manage to find time to run as much as (or more than) me every week.

8. Still, when one of them proposed doing one of the Lake Norman Y's open-water swims, I said, "Sure, why not?" (I've been known to volunteer for things I'm not prepared for in the past -- last December, I signed up for and ran my first half-marathon despite the fact that my longest training run had been 7 miles. In this case, I'd never swam more than 25 yards without stopping for at least a few seconds to catch my breath.)

9. Today was the day. We'd decided to meet at 6:20 a.m. to head up there. I set my alarm for 5:50. In the course of getting ready, I got to the point where it was time to decide whether or not to wear jewelry. The Tag was an easy decision; though it's water-resistant, it's also heavy. Not good for swimming. But for reasons I can't explain, I slid my wedding ring on. Even though there was a voice way in the back of my head asking me, "Why?"

10. Forgot it was on until I went out with the first wave of swimmers at 8 a.m. After letting the "pros" get going first, I started making slow, steady strokes through the water. And within about two minutes, I noticed -- amid all the kicking and splashing going on around me -- that my 10-year-old, oval-shaped ring was feeling a little loose. ...

11. Forgot that I noticed it was feeling a little loose until we were at the deepest point along the 800-yard course, as we were making the turn around the two furthest-out buoys. I was bringing my left arm back and the little bugger just flew off. My heart dropped. And -- for an instant -- I considered going under and conducting a frantic search. But an instant later, it passed. For one, it had become obvious hundreds of yards back, when I'd first put my big head under water, that the lake waters are not terribly clear. For another ... remember I said I hadn't been training much? Well, I knew I still had 10 more minutes of swimming ahead of me, and I didn't know if I still had 10 more minutes of swimming in me. I guess I decided in those 1.5 seconds that I didn't need to risk death-by-drowning over a $150 "platinum" ring.

And that's how my wedding ring wound up at the bottom of Lake Norman. I emerged from the water feeling great about the personal victory -- that is, having completed the swim freestyle, without needing to resort to the doggy paddle or the sidestroke or the backstroke -- and yet also bummed about the personal loss.

As for my wife? She said it's not a big deal, and I believe her. Our 10th anniversary is coming up in December, so an upgrade for both of us was fairly imminent. But it'll still go down as a Hall of Shame moment.

Which leads me to my question of the day: Have you ever lost anything of value -- sentimental or monetary -- while training, or during a race?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Find your chi and run with it

UPDATE: Cost of the workshop has just been reduced from $125 to $95! I've also added some specifics about what the workshop will cover.

Imagine being able to run for virtually as long as you want, without ever having to worry about injury. Sounds OK, right? Now imagine also being able to run without effort. Sounds divine.

But possible? I can't be sure. Then again, I've not yet tried "ChiRunning," a style that incorporates a slight lean forward and a midsole foot strike instead of the typical heel-toe method.

Proponents -- and their numbers are growing -- maintain that these seemingly minor changes in technique produce major results; they say the adjustments make running feel more effortless, while also reducing fatigue and shin and knee strain. (Running Times earlier this year featured an article that mentioned ChiRunning and similar philosophies/methods that encourage tweaks in gait and running form. Read it here.)

If you're interested in learning more from a certified local coach, there's an opportunity on the horizon: Charlottean Amy Peacock, one of about 100 certified ChiRunning instructors worldwide, is giving a three-hour workshop in Myers Park on the morning of June 20.

Peacock (that's her, at right) describes ChiRunning as taking running "from a fitness sport to more of a holistic practice, similar to yoga, t'ai chi and pilates." Target audience? "Marathoners, ultramarathoners and daily runners who want to cover long distances without a lot of pain. ... Even beginners -- I prefer they learn the correct form before stacking on more miles."

The workshop will cover: the physics of running; how to use your posture, legs and arms efficiently; personal check-in tricks; core muscle drills and exercises; and how to eliminate knee, hip and IT band injuries.

One question I posed to Peacock after learning about her workshop: So if someone enjoyed it and wanted to get more advanced instruction, what are their options? In other words, after the workshop, one might go out and try to apply what they learned, but maybe they wind up doing it improperly. How would someone know they were forming good habits and not bad ones in the aftermath?

She responded, "There is a lot to learn in (three hours), so I offer a little outside running bonus for those who can stay at least an hour longer to coach them along. I take people outside to show them proper technique on hills ... since we have so many around here! There will be handouts that I will have available to participants so they can practice on their own. I will also be available by e-mail and in person to answer any follow up questions. Finally, my plan is to start a ChiRunning running group for my attendees, so people could get help there, too."

Interested? Here are the details:

When: 8:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 20.
Where: Myers Park Presbyterian Church gym, 2501 Oxford Place.
Cost: $95 per person.
Availability: 14 spots left.
To register: Click here.
More info: Click here, e-mail Amy by clicking here, or call 704-299-8134.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Looking for a track to run on?

Like many of you, I have a running routine.

During the week, I get out the door at 6:30 a.m. and do a couple-three laps around a 2-mile loop that winds through my subdivision and a neighboring one. On Saturdays, I hit the Mallard and Clark's Creek Greenways in UCity with my running group and put in about 10 miles or so.

It's a pleasant routine -- but lately, I've been thinking I need to spice it up a bit.

I think about this, in fact, every time a training program in Runner's World (or in one of the various "how-to-train-better" books I own) lays out guidelines for doing workouts on a track.

The benefits of running on a track are clear: The softer surface reduces the risk of injury (or helps you recover from one); tracks make it easier to measure your distance; and they're great for speed work, since the flat surface allows you to accelerate quickly and maintain your fastest paces.

Yet in the eight months since I started running, I've never been on a track myself. And part of the reason is that while the articles and books I've read tell you how to run track workouts, they don't tell you where the nearest usable track is.

Fortunately, I recently discovered some tips on just this subject, buried deep within the Charlotte Running Company's Web site. Here they are:

"If you're looking to run on the track, many runners use the facilities at Myers Park High School at 2400 Colony Road. The track is eight lanes and asphalt. Providence Day School on Sardis Road has a six-lane ground tire rubber track, and the public is almost always welcome. Rubberized or synthetic tracks are also available at UNC-Charlotte (world-class facility), Davidson College, Charlotte Christian School, Charlotte Latin, Charlotte Country Day, West Charlotte, Vance H.S., and Butler H.S. We recommend not trying to get on these schools tracks between 2:30 and 5 p.m. because of their practices. You may also want to call ahead to make sure that the public is welcome."
Have you used any of these tracks? If so, do you have tips or advice regarding public access (or the quality of the surface)? Can you recommend other facilities not listed above? And how often do you go to the track? Once a week? Once a month? What kind of workout do you do?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What are your running pet peeves?

Here are mine:

On daily runs:

1. Runners who look you in the eye as you cross paths, but don't return your friendly wave.

2. Coming across piles of dog poop. Also: unleashed dogs.

3. When running against traffic on asphalt in residential neighborhoods, cars that make no effort to give you some extra room as they speed by.

4. When you can't pick up a signal from the satellite with your Garmin, and you're pressed for time as it is (or the group is about to head out).

5. Cyclists that whoosh past you on the Greenway like bats out of hell without so much as an "On the left!"

At races:

1. When you're 10 miles into a half-marathon and some joker yells, "Looking good, you're halfway there!" Or: When you're 2 miles into a half-marathon and some joker yells, "Looking good, you're in the homestretch!"

2. People at larger races who line up near the front, then jam things up in the first quarter-mile of the course by walking or running very slowly. Worse: Slow runners who line up near the front, then saunter along with one or more companions, side-by-side, three across. Usually chatting loudly about something stupid.

3. Looooooooooooooong lines for a porta-potty. Also: Line chaos (i.e. when there are multiple lines for multiple stalls, and there's no rhyme or reason to who grabs the next free one).

4. Grunters. I know some of them can't help it, but the noise can really take you out of your own rhythm.

5. Spitters. Snot-rocketers, too. If you've gotta do it, make sure it lands off the road, and that I don't get hit by any spray whatsoever.

Want to back me up on any of these? Or offer your own? Fire away.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A 10K in May? Hooray!

As a matter of fact, Saturday's Morrison 10K/5K Race & 1 mile Fun Run may boast the only Charlotte-area 6.2-miler this side of fall. (Thanks, Jason, for reminding me of this one!)

The addition of the 10K (and the 1-mile "fun run") to the Morrison YMCA's fifth annual event, a 5K-only in years past, should attract a larger-than-usual crowd to the Ballantyne Corporate Park. 5Kers and 10Kers start together at 8 a.m.; Fun Run is at 9.

There'll be live entertainment, free food and giveaways sponsored by Ballantyne shops and restaurants. Cost for the 10K is $25 if you register here, or $30 at the Morrison or Ballantyne Village Y. 5K fees are $20-$25.

The race scene goes quiet locally for Memorial Day Weekend (although feel free to chase some skirts in Raleigh), but May 30 boasts a few attractive options:

  • The Charlotte Run for Peace at Home is a 5K trail run set for that morning on the McAlpine Creek Greenway (just a couple miles from Matthews). Notably, the men's and women's starts are staggered by half an hour -- they're at 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively -- with a children's fun run/walk to follow at 9. Target audience here is anyone who enjoys small cross-country events: Last year's race featured just 260 runners, and the scenic trail consists of both open flats and challenging hills. Register online through May 23 by clicking here. Proceeds benefit anti-domestic violence programs in the Charlotte area, and the motto of the 15-year-old race is "Peace begins at home." The event has been at McAlpine Creek Greenway since 2007.
  • Brand-new to the annual calendar of events is the RLJ Be the Match 5K, set for 8 a.m. on a course just south of Lake Wylie, near the York County line. Run in memory of Robert Lawrence Johnson, the race benefits the National Marrow Donor Program, which matches leukemia and lymphoma sufferers with potential bone marrow donors. The 5K's slogan -- "run some hills for a great cause" -- also alludes to the rolling course along the Grand Palisades Parkway. Start and finish is at the Charlotte United soccer fields. Strollers and children are welcome; pets aren't. Free massages afterward. Cost: $20 in advance, $25 on race day. For more info, click here.
  • Finally, if you're in a multi-sport mood, there's the Over the Mountain Triathlon (1.5K swim, 45K bike, 10K run) in Kings Mountain. It's a point-to-point race that begins at Moss Lake, west of the town, and ends in the downtown area. The bike course winds through two state parks, one national park and in and out of South Carolina. For a map of the route, click here.
Have I missed anything else locally for the month of May?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Daily Mile = Facebook for runners

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows my m.o.: My tweets and my status updates are almost exclusively related to my training.

To some, my mini-reports probably became tedious long ago. I'd imagine others construe them as gloating. But I hope there are at least a few people out there who find them inspiring -- who maybe have started (or have kept to) their own running plans at least in very small part because of me.

If you fall into the latter group, you're likely to summon even more motivation from the social network Daily Mile. (Thanks to reader Brad Mintz for pointing this one out!)

The Web site -- live since December -- allows you to log miles, post details of your workouts for friends to see, ask questions, and find training partners, local group runs and races. It's free to join, and it's aimed not only at runners but also cyclists and triathletes.

There are plenty of sites out there that give you a place to record your progress -- I've been using the training log at practically since I started running. But what makes Daily Mile's so appealing is the open, friendly, easy-to-use interface.

Check it out here. And if you sign up, add me as a friend! My oh-so-clever username is ... theodenjanes.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Good shirt, great cause, excellent new tri

Thanks to Observer immigration reporter Franco Ordonez -- an avid runner and triathlete -- for contributing this report from the new Jetton Tri at Lake Norman:

A lot of runners, like myself, signed up for Saturday's inaugural Jetton Tri to dust away some of the offseason cobwebs. The 750-meter swim, 20k bike, and 5k run makes for a good tune up for Tri Latta next month. But I could see this race growing into a bigger event that the casual and veteran triathlete will make sure to sign up for.

One of the cool things about young races is the smaller crowd, which makes for a more casual and less-stressful atmosphere. No waiting in line at the Port-o-John worrying about whether you'll make the start gun type of thing.

Jetton Park, on the east side of Lake Norman, is a great woodsy spot for a triathlon. Little beach for the swim start. A lot of racers commented on how nice it was to get out of the pool and back into the open water.

Credit: Clarke Rodgers/

On the rolling bike course, there were plenty of postcard-quality views of the lake.

Credit: Clarke Rodgers/

And the run was good -- though hot -- on Saturday morning.

Credit: Clarke Rodgers/

The heat didn't seem to impact Nick Frank of Charlotte, who won the race in 1 hour, 1 minute and 4 seconds. Ashley Naelon of Davidson was the fastest woman. She finished in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 54 seconds.

Now, about the shirt: Wearing evidence on your back that you completed a race can satisfying, but I have so many white cotton tees from runs and tris that it's ridiculous. So it was a thrill to be handed a navy blue "Dri-Balance" shirt for participating today.

I'm glad some organizers (like Jetton's Sheila Wakeman) are upping the ante by handing out a high-tech running shirt that athletes actually will get some good use out of on training runs. When you're plopping down $80 a race, you remember those small details.

Of course, it's not about the T-shirts. It's about participating in fun healthy event and raising money for a good cause. Wakeman said 450 people raced and helped raise $30,000 for two local charities, the Hope Foundation and Ace and TJ’s Grin Kids, which works with terminally ill kids. That's some good stuff.

"It exceeded our expectations," Wakeman said. "Next year will be even bigger."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Twilight 5K makes the right moves

There were more than 2,200 people registered for tonight's Right Moves for Charlotte Twilight 5K (including walkers), and it showed.

I met some friends over there around 6:10 p.m. -- about 50 minutes before the start -- and the chip pickup, registration and pre-registration lines inside uptown's Wachovia Atrium were a madhouse. But all those young professionals made for a cheerful mood out on the plaza before the race, and the sole Port-a-Potty line still managed to move fairly swiftly.

Start was cool, with a Charlotte Fire Department truck providing a nice American-flag-raising a few minutes beforehand and a most authoritative opening horn.

Not as much bottlenecking in the first tenth of a mile as I was expecting (I thought the construction at the Duke Energy Tower on Tryon Street might create a logjam), but as usual, faster runners had to weave around slower folks who had no business lining up toward the front.

The first half of the race was actually pretty uneventful for me -- took several tight turns in the industrial part of Southend without incident as I tried to keep my pace even at around 7:15/mile.

Things got more interesting after the swift drop on Morehead near the stadium. We turned onto Cedar and made the big climb to 4th Street (there, runners were met by a mini-throng of boisterous Johnson & Wales University students).

Fortunately, that hill on Cedar didn't faze me, steep as it was. But by the time we banked left where Graham transitions into Stonewall, on the other side of the stadium, the gradual ascent -- and a nasty headwind -- conspired to keep me from setting a PR.

The homestretch on Tryon was kind of a blur for me, but it was nice to see such a good-sized crowd of friends and family members lining the sides of the last 100 yards or so.

Volunteers moved us through the finish chute efficiently, and it was a nice surprise that all the finishers wound up with a medal.

Good selection of post-race food, including everything from bananas and oranges (on the plaza) to fried rice and pizza (in the atrium). Results board was the usual mob scene. On the way to the post-race party, caught the start of the kids' 1K Fun Run. Here's a so-so iPhone pic:

Finally, it's worth noting that while I was expecting to have to wait half an hour for my free beer at George Herman's in nearby Latta Arcade, I basically walked up and was sipping on Mich Ultra within about 15 seconds.

All in all, a very fun race. I ran into so many people afterward who were thrilled with the experience. And I heard at least one person say they wished there were more evening races, because they don't like getting up at the crack of dawn for runs. (Hmm, maybe someone in town should step up with another one?)

Anyway, did you run it? What'd you think of the event?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shortest blog entry ever:

I don't run with music.

Do you run with music?

Why or why not?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Let's go for a run Friday night


Uptown workers should save their energy Friday for one of the area's only annual evening races.

Organizers are hoping to register 2,200 runners and walkers for Right Moves for Youth's Twilight 5K, which starts at 7 p.m. by the Wachovia Plaza in uptown Charlotte and requires a quick change of clothes by the 9-to-5 crowd.

Earlier this week, I traded brief e-mails about the Twilight run with race director Shannon Hames, who's also development director for Right Moves for Youth.

Q. I'm excited about this race, because it's one that I don't have to wake up early for on a Saturday. Do you get that reaction a lot?
Yes. We get a lot of people who are glad to have a chance to run in the evening. The runners also seem to really enjoy the post-race party (at George Herman’s). ... People have more energy in the morning, but people seem to really enjoy the evening run.

Q. Were young professionals the target "audience" when the race was created? Seems perfect for them, given the time and location.
Yes, the plan was to give professionals a chance to participate in a healthy activity that helped to support the charity Right Moves for Youth.

Q. Break down the course layout for me. Is it true there's a big hill leading up to the finish?
The first half the race is flat and downhill. The second half is rolling. There is a gradual rise up by Bank of America Stadium; it’s tough, but not unbearable.

Q. I see each runner gets one free beer per runner at the post-race party. Any chance you could make it two?? ;)
You’d have to talk with the owner of George Herman's! ... But we are giving finishing medals to the first 2,100 runners/walkers!

I also asked about post-race showers, which the uptown Y used to offer during the '90s, back in the race's early years. Replied co-organizer Marie Cassis of Event Marketing Services: "The majority of people head over to George Herman's after the race to take in the celebration -- even without a shower. We get that question a lot, too, but we always tell people not to worry ... that they will be in the same company!"

* * *

Registration is $17 ($20 on race day), $12 for kids in grades K through 12. Walkers can register, too, and a free 1K Kids Fun Run will follow at 8 p.m.

8 p.m. is also when the post-race party starts at George Herman’s, located at 144 Brevard Court in Latta Arcade (across the street from Wachovia Plaza). Yes, each guest gets one beer ticket (admission for runners is free, non-runners must pay $3; additional donations are welcomed).

Proceeds from both the race and the party benefit Right Moves for Youth, whose mission is "to provide the motivation for its members in grades 3-12 to succeed in school, improve their quality of life, and become responsible members of society."

For more info on Right Moves for Youth or to sign up for the Twilight 5K, click here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm a slave to my gear. Are you?

Ever more frequently, I look at the corner of my vanity or the corner of my bedroom -- both of which have become dumping grounds for various running accessories -- and wonder, do I really put all this stuff on every time I go out for a run?

If you asked my wife, the answer would be, "No, but you really need to find a drawer for all of this stuff." If you ask me, the answer is: It depends. On how far I'll be running. On where I'll be running. And on who I'll be running with.

In general, though, this is my inventory list for:

  • Races: SPIbelt (for digital camera or cellphone, depending on mood/circumstances), Garmin watch with heart monitor, Road ID, GU Energy Gel.
Also, on pre-dawn or late-evening runs, I wear a cheapo blinking red light that clips to my waistband. I do not run with music.

What gear will you not leave home without? Are there accessories you're saving for, or planning to buy soon? Are there things you bring on runs that you'd like to give up? (Me, I'm considering ditching the strap-on heart-rate monitor because it sometimes slips, occasionally chafes. Badly.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Drop your drawers for nudist 5K

Unlike Frank the Tank in "Old School," I've never felt compelled to strip down to my birthday suit and go for a run.

But if I did, I might -- might -- consider participating in the clothing-optional Bare Your Hide 5K, scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 16, at the Carolina Foothills Resort in Chesnee, S.C. (75 minutes west of Charlotte).

Presented by, ahem, Butts A'runnin Race Enterprises, the run starts at 10 a.m. on gravel roads, transitions to wooded trails, then moves back onto gravel leading up to the finish.

Appropriately, the event is open only to athletes 21 and older. Registration is $25 through Friday, $30 thereafter, via SPORToften. Chip timing will be done by Queen City Timing Services of Mooresville. For full race details, click here.

OK, so I've written most of this with a straight face. But the Beavis in me can't help snickering at the thought of all those, um, appendages flopping around out there. Meanwhile, the realist in me wonders how comfortable can it be for heavier-chested women to run that far without a sports bra ... or for well-endowed dudes to go 3.1 miles without a jock strap.

By the way, it's important to note that the runners out there are likely to resemble a much-older Will Ferrell than Leonardo DiCaprio. (Need proof? Click here to see video from a similar race last month in Statesville.)

And one more thing: The race is closed to the general public, so don't waste your time making the 130-mile round-trip if you're hoping to be a spectator; it's not a peep show!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cancer survivor is 'rear'ing to go


Last month, a new 5K quietly slipped onto the race calendar in Raleigh: the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K Run/Walk, which drew less than 350 runners in its first year but raised a chunk of dough that will fund colon and rectal cancer awareness efforts.

The event also has inspired a Queen City woman to try to bring a similar race here.

Susan Falco, 40, herself a colorectal cancer survivor, ran the Raleigh 5K in March and now is formulating a plan to make Charlotte one of more than a dozen U.S. cities that host Get Your Rear in Gear events. (Others can be found from Colchester, Vt., to San Francisco; the whole endeavor resembles the network of Komen Race for the Cure events, on a smaller scale.)

I've traded several e-mails with Susan over the past week, and it's clear she's serious. But she also needs serious help, as would anyone in her situation -- she doesn't have experience putting together significant races.

So I've agreed to help her get the word out. Here's the word according to Susan:

I was the worst track and field runner in the history of my New Jersey high school. At 4 feet 11 inches, I was working double-time to keep up with kids twice my size. Let's just say running was not my sport back then.

So I stayed away from it. For a loooong time. Then ... a year ago, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Over the next several months, I endured pain, anxiety, stress and hospital visits. Yet this crazy disease wound up giving me amazing gifts -- one of them was that six months after major surgery, I decided to put on a pair of running sneakers. I haven't looked back since.

And now, more than 20 years after my dubious high school track career ended, running has become a lifeline for me.

My first race was Charlotte's Jingle Jog 5K this past December. 3.1 miles might not be a big deal for some, but for a cancer survivor, it was surreal. I choked up at the first mile marker and finished the race as if I'd won.

So far, I've run three races, and have beaten my personal best each time. After running in Raleigh's Get Your Rear in Gear 5K for colorectal cancer in March, I vowed to bring this race to Charlotte.

I am doing this with the help of other young women who are survivors of the same cancer. We are at the very beginning stages of this process -- our first planning meeting will be held on Thursday, May 7, in Matthews, and I hope to select a date for the run a few weeks after that.

This will be a huge undertaking, and we'll need all the help we can get.

Thursday night's organizational team meeting will be held in the community conference room at the Matthews public library from 7 to 8:45 p.m. The branch is at 230 Matthews Station St. (click here for a map).

If you're interested in attending (no race-planning experience necessary!), drop Susan an e-mail at If you'd like more information about Get Your Rear in Gear events and Colon Cancer Coalition efforts, click here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Small race? A welcome change of pace

After having run with 30,000 people at the Cooper River Bridge Run, 12,000 in the Georgia Marathon/Half Marathon and 2,000 at RaceFest ... it was actually kinda nice to do a local 5K with just a few hundred others.

The Great Harvest Bread Co. 5K -- held just south of uptown, on the fringes of Dilworth and Elizabeth -- hosted less than 400 runners Saturday morning. There were no bottlenecks at the start, at the water station, or at the finish. No lines at the Port-a-Potties, at the chip pickup table, or for the post-race snacks. Out on the course, at times, I was practically running alone.

The laid-back atmosphere no doubt contributed to my PR of 22:27, despite the humidity and the climb on Hawthorne Lane in Mile 2. (I also got some help from the downhill finish. Whoever designed the course, thanks for doing that!)

I actually went in with the goal of medalling in my division (men 35 to 39). Disappointingly, I came up 11 seconds short ... and, even more disappointingly, I didn't even place fourth, or fifth, in my group. Two other guys beat me by just a few seconds!! Sigh.

Anyway, had some yummy treats afterward, including the cinnamon chip loaf from Great Harvest, Melting Pot's chocolate-covered strawberries, and fresh fruit from Edible Arrangements. Only disappointment was that the Chick-fil-A sandwiches were gone by the time I realized they had been available.

Runners check their times after the Great Harvest Bread Co. 5K.

Also chatted with two readers: Kathy Seavers, who won her division (women 60-64) with an impressive 24:25; and York, S.C. resident Denny Wells (I hope I'm getting that right), who finished in 25 and change. I ran into Denny both before and after -- something that NEVER would have happened at an event with 10,000 runners.

Small races. They're fun to run every once in awhile, no?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fall marathons are filling up fast

The big ones are, at least.

The Marine Corps Marathon (a.k.a. "The People's Marathon") reached its 30,000-runner capacity on April 17, 16 days after registration opened; it's being run on Sunday, Oct. 25. The Chicago Marathon -- which is two Sundays earlier, on Oct. 11 -- also recently hit its limit of 45,000 participants. And, of course, if you're interested in the New York City Marathon, take a number and get in line. (But do it fast -- applications are only being accepted through 11:59 p.m. June 1.)

What are runners who'd like to do a great-big fall marathon on the East Coast left with? Well, here are a couple of suggestions, courtesy of Runner's World's 2009 Marathon Guide:

  • A potentially good option for people who do best in the coldest temps is the Philadelphia Marathon, which is tucked way back on Nov. 22 (that's the Sunday before Thanksgiving). Runner's World said Philly has "the big-city excitement of New York City" and praised the route: "Philly's figure-eight course shows off two sides of the City of Brotherly Love. The first 10 miles take runners past major landmarks, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the art museum (whose steps were immortalized by Rocky). Later, runners pass through 8,700-acre Fairmount Park before cruising along the peaceful Schuylkill River."
  • The other backup to consider is the Richmond Marathon, which -- being barely a five-hour drive from Charlotte -- is the more driveable option. In calling it a good alternative to Marine Corps, Runner's World said: "Richmond puts on such a great event, most runners aren't disappointed by the change in plans. ... The day before the race, organizers offer free bus tours of the course, each led by an experienced Richmond marathoner. During the race, volunteers hand out wet washcloths so you can wipe away eye-stinging sweat. ... Miles 17 and 23 feature junk-food stations with gummy bears, cookies, and Coca-Cola."
Oh, and one last thing: If you're seeking a full big-race experience at half the distance, be aware that registration for the NYC Half Marathon opens at noon today. In previous years, runners could only get in via the lottery system; this year, it's first-come, first served, and the cap is 10,000 -- so hurry if you want in. For details, click here.