The University City 5K -- now in its second year with taekwondo school King Tiger as the title sponsor -- has steadily grown into one of the precious few mid-sized races in the UCity area, having nearly doubled in size from 2006 to 2008.
What's in store for 2009? I traded e-mails with race director Chris Elkins earlier today, and he graciously answered several questions about Saturday's event:
Q. How many runners are you expecting this year?
650 to 700 total, between the walkers, runners and kids fun run.
Q. The race site says the course is "new and improved" -- what's new, and how has it been improved?
The police forced us to change the course from last year, so it's new because it has to be. Improved might be a stretch; sometimes a nice way of saying that there are a few more hills. Last year was a straight down and back. This year, it's 1/2 long and straight and 1/2 rolling through neighborhoods.
Q. A friend who ran the course recently said there's a big hill in the final mile, and that none of the course is shaded from the sun -- both of which could present challenges for unprepared runners. How tough would you rate this course on a scale of 1 to 10, given those factors?
3/4 of the final mile should be flat to downhill. But there is an uphill towards the end of Mile 2. True, not much shade, but that is what this area provides us (without going down into the research park, which we tried four years ago and people complained because it was very hilly). We start the race as early as we can to avoid the hottest part of the day. But very few parts of Charlotte are flat, so I'd say most runners will be prepared as long as they didn't train on a treadmill. If last year's flat course was a 1 on a tough scale, I'd say it's up to a 5.
Q. So this is the fourth of nine races in Run For Your Life's Grand Prix series, right? Explain how the series works, and tell me: Could someone theoretically enter this as their first GP series race and still wind up with some hardware and/or prize money by the end of the season in October?
Each Grand Prix race rewards the finisher with points. The better you place, the more points you get. You are allowed to drop your two lowest points from any of the nine races. Awards are passed out at the end of the season in all the typical race categories and age groups. Someone could enter this race as their first and still place at the end of the season, based on the rules. But because so many of the runners do at least seven to eight of these races, it would be hard to imagine that happening.
Q. Any cool amenities slated to be on-site Saturday that you want to tell runners about?
We will have food from Trader Joe's, treats from Rita's Italian Ice, music, a massage therapist and a physical therapist, all out to provide products and services for the runner. And we're waiting to hear from a few more restaurants, so there might be more food. King Tiger will be doing demos of their (martial arts) routines. Very cool. They did this last year and it drew a big crowd.
Q. Anything unique about the T-shirts or the awards? Doing any door prizes?
The shirts are NOT boring white. They are a nice royal blue. And the awards are Taekwondo belts.
Under almost any other circumstances, I'd be out there Saturday. Unfortunately, our neighborhood has scheduled its annual yard sale for that morning, and, well, duty calls. (So does the need to drum up additional funds for our trip to Spain this summer.)
It kills me to miss it. The King Tiger is less than four miles from my house, and several friends and acquaintances will be volunteering and/or running Saturday. But we can't run 'em all, right? If you're doing this race -- or any of the others happening this weekend -- have fun, and be safe.
Race site: Click here. To register: Click here.