Monday, December 14, 2009

Overall winner's review of Thunder Road

One of Charlotte's newest marathoners is also now officially its fastest.

Jordan Kinley, who moved here from Oklahoma in late August and has been running competitively since age 9, won Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon on Saturday by nearly six minutes in a time of 2:29:39. This was only the 25-year-old's second marathon, but also gets chalked up as his second victory -- he finished first in his 26.2-mile debut with a 2:27:19 at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon last April.

I asked Jordan for thoughts on the Thunder Road experience, and he graciously offered some up Sunday ... after completing a workout consisting of an easy-but-rather-painful recovery run and an aqua jogging session.
I run a lot compared to most, but recently, I haven't had a goal for my training. I was hoping that Thunder Road could get me excited again to train through the winter months.

My coach, parents and friends didn't know I was going to toe the line because it was, more or less, a last-minute decision. I still haven't received that many congratulations because I'm still making friends here in Charlotte.

I wasn't nearly prepared enough to race on Saturday, but I thought if all went well, I could be near the front. I'm happy to have performed better than expected.

For the most part, I think Thunder Road was a well-organized, successfully marketed and smoothly run event. Here is my pro/con list:

  1. Great crowd support through the first half. Running in Myers Park is something I do almost every day, but Thunder Road made me appreciate the neighborhood's citizens.
  2. Fun way to see Charlotte. Though the course doesn't venture down to Ballantyne or up to the University, it does cover a good portion of the city.
  3. Amazing job by Charlotte's police force and volunteers who blocked traffic, monitored intersections and handed out water.
  4. The theme of the race, and the consistent association with NASCAR.
  5. The handling of the event by Run For Your Life and the event marketing crew. Registering for the race, picking up packets and getting results were all smoothly executed.
  6. The drummers underneath I-277 near the Bank of America Stadium. I got a surge of energy running to the drums' rhythm.

  1. The crowd support coming back through uptown was patchy at best. We didn't run more than three blocks from the start or finish of the race and I was disappointed the crowd was so thin around mile 18.
  2. The race expo. I have attended half a dozen marathon expos in the past and found them to be much livelier than Thunder Road's. I wish there had been guest speakers, former big marathon race winners and a radio station or TV broadcast in attendance to enhance the participants' level of excitement.
  3. The number of water stops. I want to put this in the Con category, but the volunteers of the 14 water stations did do an exceptional job. However, most marathons have closer to 20 water stops. For instance, Oklahoma City (21), Dallas White Rock (20 or 21), Marine Corps (20 or 21), St. Jude Memphis (22+), Atlanta (17 or 18), Tulsa Marathon (14 or 15).
  4. "The wall" at Mile 21 wasn't set up in time for me to run through. Clever idea and fitting charm for NoDa, but executed a little late.
  1. The almost non-existent crowd from Miles 18.5 to 20.5. It's a tough stretch at a difficult portion of the race, and to have no encouragement was disheartening.
  2. The crowd near the 24 mile marker that didn't offer me a beer, Irish coffee or mimosa.
  3. I wasn't overly impressed with the post-race recognition or festivities. I don't compete for press, but it's nice to be acknowledged when you win a marathon. I'm sorry for sounding arrogant, but not everyone breaks the tape.
  4. Where were the massages; maybe I missed those?

I will be in serious trouble if I don't give shout-outs some important people in my life. Thanks to Meagan, who unexpectedly came out to cheer me on at Mile 10; to my coach, Jeff Gaudette, for keeping me healthy and in a solid state of general fitness; and to Craft and Karhu, for giving me the kit and racing shoes I wore during the marathon.
For Thunder Road Marathon winner Jordan Kinley's full (and very good) race recap, click over to

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Also just got some feedback from Charlotte's
Paul Mainwaring, who finished third overall and was the second-fastest Charlottean with a time of 2:38:16.

Pros, in no particular order:
  • Superbly organized and marshaled. Absolutely no issues with traffic or directions. Great job by all the volunteers. There were lots of them, and all seemed well-organized and knew what they were supposed to be doing. The pockets of cheerleaders and random entertainment acts were also very much appreciated.
  • Course layout. Tough but fair course. The first half goes through beautiful neighborhoods, and the last few miles through NoDa show another side to Charlotte.
  • Having the start right outside the Convention Center. People could keep warm before heading to start line. The car starting up and the national anthem were a nice touch also.
  • The checkered flag awards were a good touch and the medals are impressive. Nice long-sleeve technical shirt in the race packet.
  • The atmosphere in general. Just a feel-good positive vibe around the place.
  • The awards ceremony should be outside by the finish line, and sooner after the finish. In the convention center, it was far too low-key. To tie in to the race theme, they could have a podium for the top three, champagne to spray, etc.
  • They could do something about the three-mile section just after the half, though. No need to take it out to South Tryon/West/Mint. Add three miles in Dilworth, and run down Morehead directly to the Stadium.
To read Paul Mainwaring's full race recap, visit his blog by clicking

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One other note: The third-fastest Charlottean, Billy Shue, finished fifth overall in 2:44:08. It was a personal best by more than 13 minutes: Seven weeks ago, the 25-year-old ran a 2:57:19 at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. -- while suffering from (he didn't know it at the time) swine flu.


Anonymous said...

Congrat's!! I ran the half and just finished before you. It made my day to be there as you broke the tape.

Anonymous said...

I read the winner's review of the marathon (a big congrats!!!) and read his garmin measured the marathon to be 26.4 instead of 26.2. I had a lady finish the half right behind me on Saturday with a Garmin, who said it measured the 1/2 to be 13.3 instead of 13.1. Did anyone else notice this discrepancy?

Big Baller said...

I think that Garmin's are great but now that everyone is getting them, it always seems like a course is long. What people don't take into consideration is that the course is designed based on tangent's. So if you went wide on a few turns they add up over the course of a marathon.

Big congrats to everyone who competed ! This race has changed a lot since it's 1st year. Kudo's to the marketing and management.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked that this many people can compete in this large of an event with such little media coverage. WBTV had a few seconds of footage of the start but that's it, none of the rest of the news stations had anything. It looks like this would be an easy one for them to cover, but then again no one got shot during the race so I guess it just isn't interesting.

Anonymous said...

The reason it doesn't get more coverage is because it is an amateur road race. When the Olympics come around, nobody pays attention to the marathon there either. Sadly, it's just the way it is. People who don't run could care less about a road race, and have zero interest in standing in the cold on a Satuday morning to watch people they don't know run over 26 miles. There are plently of other events in town in other sports that receive even less attention.