Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Thunder Road is good for all of us

Marathons can be a great big pain in the neck.

For some people.

Like readers who this past week expressed annoyance about Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon via comments on Observer stories online – comments that were along the lines of:
  • “This is going to once again mess up weekend traffic. Why must we have other people’s hobbies inflicted upon us?”
  • “They should run on a track. Go around enough and you’ll cover 26.2 miles.”
  • “We have enough stress in our lives during the holidays. Having this two weeks before Christmas is beyond stupid.”
(Ah, that wonderful Christmas spirit!)

Yes, I’m a runner, and I ran the marathon. So no, I wasn’t one of the hundreds of area motorists who were inconvenienced on Saturday.

And I’m aware of the fact that plenty of those motorists were seeing red.

But let me tell you what I saw: I saw affluent families, warm cups of coffee in their hands, screaming encouragement in Myers Park. I saw teen girls, bright signs in their hands, screaming at the top of their lungs in uptown. I saw thirty-something men, light beers in their hands, screaming at the top of their lungs in Plaza-Midwood.

I saw police officers yelling at civilians, “You’ve got this, good job!” I saw civilians literally going out of their way to say “Thank you!” to police officers.

I saw a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary by running a half-marathon together. I saw a guy doing his third marathon, but only his first since 10 years away from running made him “fat.” I saw a pair of runners lock arms with a total stranger and guide the exhausted 47-year-old woman through the final push, helping her achieve a dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon by mere seconds.

And at the finish line, I saw satisfaction, relief, redemption, pride, elation, love.

I saw things we don’t see enough of in our daily lives. I saw 26.2 miles of a city – our city – alive and aglow, awash in smiles.

So yes, I contributed to something that can be a great big pain in the neck, but in this case, I won’t apologize for it.

Note to regular readers: A recap of my Thunder Road experience will be up on Sunday. I finished in 3:42:32, a PR over New York City by nearly seven and a half minutes.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your commentary Theoden. I too, clogged up the streets of Charlotte today to finish my third marathon with a new PR. I, too, was thankful for all the wonderful people I saw along the course. Great job on your new PR, that's absolutely amazing. It was my favorite race by far of the many I've run. Thanks for your support of the running community!!

Anonymous said...

I too thank you for your commentary Theoden. As a Triathlete living in Charlotte, I can't tell you how many times I have heard our neighbors complaining about these events as well as our strong cycling commmunity sharing the road. It is a shame that we not only fail to recognize the importance of community that these events foster but also share an apathetic view of healthy living. Perhaps some of the overweight readers who posted those comments should examine their own lives a bit closer.

Anonymous said...

Another great post. Its not like concerts, football games, basketball games, speed street, parades etc. don't tie up traffic. Strange how closed-minded some can be. Stopping for school buses lengthens my commute but I'm not about to complain about kids getting an education!! I hope more people can embrace or at least plan around this wholesome activity for all the reasons you've posted above and more. Had a wonderful time out there!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that people are annoyed by the determination and dedication of others to lead a healthy lifestyle. I look at their complaining as a sign of jealousy. They wish they had the work ethic of those that competed today.

Sharon said...

Thanks to all of our Charlotte neighbors - South Park, Dilworth, Wilmore, Uptown, NODA, Midwood Plaza...you all tolerated the cold to cheer us on and I appreciated it. I agree - it's a great way to see the city in a new light. Despite all the complainers - we have a lot of great neighbors and I love this city!

Anonymous said...

Any word why the chip time/gun time are the same for everyone? Any technical problems today, or is this information just not posted yet?

Anonymous said...

In a city of 600k plus, not surprising to get a few complainers. Especially when they can post anonymously on the net. Not a big deal, though. I took the kids to finish line again this year to cheer on the finishers and had a great time.

Thunder Road Team said...

As a member of the team that produces this race (and therefore causes the clogs on the street) I am very proud to hear about the support that you have all seen along the course. It took a while to get to this point and although there are complainers out there, we are so happy to bring this event to you all. There were 900+ volunteers on the course, hundreds of police officers and from the sounds of it, some very encouraging neighbors! Thanks for giving us a reason to do what we do and congratulation to every who participated and supported todays event!

Anonymous said...

I was on the sidelines cheering at 5 and 12 miles and the finish line. Enjoyed every minute. Did see some annoyed drivers. I must say though that if I wasn't going to root for some friends I would not have known that Charlotte was having a marathon today. In the driver's defense more needs to be done to warn people ahead of time.

Anonymous said...

Great commentary and answer to the complainers. And congrats on the big new PR. I can't to read your write up on how it went tomorrow. :-)

ThunderRoadVolunteer said...

I was one of the volunteers and spoke with a CMPD officer that said THEY got yelled at for holding up traffic! Can you believe that crap? Some people have no consideration.

I believe one of the commenters that said that those that complain are just jealous of the participants abilities. It's a freaking disgrace that people complain about the petty stuff.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with people wanting to run on city streets on a Saturday morning. But they need to leave the roads open for people to get where they're going (including those unlucky enough to have a shift to work on a Saturday).

However, today's race seemed like it was poorly planned. In years past, both sides of the street remained open while giving the runners one lane to run in.

This year they were all over the map. For example crossing Morehead, runners went down the north bound lands of McDowell and half way up switched over to the south bound lanes. Meanwhile, cars from Morehead could turn onto Mcdowell in the same set of lanes the runners were in. There were a couple of close calls in this little stretch.

Next year, do a better job of laying out the course so that everyone can get where they're going.

Anonymous said...

i really appreciate your 1 day hobby race closing down my business for 45 hours 2 weeks before christmas...which this year is so important to me and my family. i guess my being open for business and paying business taxes and payroll taxes 365 days a year pails in comparison to the need for people to run around our city. thanks again, i hope this event pulls in enough revenue to screw all of us here year round. congrats....

Anonymous said...

8:51, signs were poseted for a week that the race was today, if you were too ignant to read them and plan a atlernate route, thats your problem. this is one day of the year, get over it. and congrats to all the finishers.

Anonymous said...

@9:02 - you mean the signs that were about the size of a yard sale sign? Yeah, those gave you a lot of information as you went zooming by them. And not every street had a sign posted.

I planned 3 different routes. And all three, at some point were blocked. It didn't help that my destination was in the middle of it.

Like I said, I don't mind the runners. With a little more planning it could have been less disruptive and everyone would have been happy.

Anonymous said...

Theoden- WOW- what a warm and fuzzy blog- more of a cheerleading for the marathon than anything else, my comment was one of the first ones you posted in the rubbutal, and I still hold to it. Check the Observer history and you will find they tried the Observer Marathon this time of year too and evenutally had to move- as this will be moved in time too.

Glad you liked the warm and fuzzies to the police- and your race organizers paid them well for there service, as I have said run elsehwere (speedway) and give that lump of money to a charity-

I drove all around town to try and get stuff done this morning, waisting time and gas-neither of which serve the community as much as you marathoners do- but then all that matters is you had a place to run, and your times were where you wished them to be-

and finally- its odd that many of the pro marathon folks are chatising the anti marathon folks for posting anoymous comments when they themselves have done the same-

guys grab some more gator aid and rest up-- there has got to be some place you can play in traffic coming up next weekend!

Anonymous said...

As for the runner who was helped across the finish line to a boston qualifying time, nice story but, sadly, she should be DQ'd.

Anonymous said...

Hey haters,
Seriously, for the one day of the year that Charlotte has a marathon, can't you be a bit more supportive? I too, work weekends and think that it's fabulous that several thousand people get off their a$$ and run the second weekend of every december and LOVE the city that they run in every day. Got over it. Seriously. We are tax payers too. Get off your a$$ and run every once in awhile, and maybe you'll see the allure of running a race this time of year. It's great to get away from the stress of it all, and get a few miles in the wonderful city that we call Charlotte!

Anonymous said...

9:52 had "stuff" to do. 1. attend anger management class 2. buy a carton of cigarettes 3. load up at McDonalds drive through 4. Fedex alimony check to wife that left him for a runner.

James said...

Run For Your Life and the tremendous supporting cast of sponsor, volunteers, and spectators did a marvelous job orchestrating what must be one of the most intricate and complex evolutions to occur in a city. Charlotteans should be so lucky for runners and other athletes involvement and training. If you removed these people from society, I suspect the core of our leadership, community, and quality citizen would vanish. Ninety percent of the time, the people with initiative and who actually care about quality of life are those who are conscientious about their own health. Let's praise these individuals who comprise a strong and influential mass when brought together for competition on city streets!

Anonymous said...

As a Triathete(eating, sleeping and working two jobs)living in Charlotte, the race didn't bother me at all. I'm so happy about you new PR, it's amazing.

Emily @ The Front Burner said...

what a great post. you summed it up in the words i couldn't find. i moved to charlotte in august and have struggled to adjust to living in a new city. four hours of running through charlotte's streets, lined with folks cheering in freezing weather was enough to make me realize that charlotte is finally "home." congrats on your PR!! :)

Anonymous said...

@ 9:01pm - I'm curious how it kept your business closed for 45 hours. The race course closed after 6 hours....and in the 2nd half, I saw cops allowing cars to get through during gaps from runners. The first half of the course should have been cleared by 10:50am, which could have done a little bit of damage I suppose, but I can't figure out the 45 hour thing.

Thanks to the 900+ volunteers, the cops along the course, and all of the spectators!

Dave said...

I only wish that the various race organizers around here would would start holding their races somewhere other Uptown, Dilworth and Myers Park more often. Can't Thunder Road be held in Ballantyne or the University area once in a while? And cannot the YMCA hold their races at one of their branches? The Harris Y comes to mind. And are the neighorhoods around Freedom Drive not upscale and pretty enough? If you're running for the sake of some cause why should it matter where you're running? And I agree with the posters who say that not enough is done to inform people of upcoming races and their routes. Those of you talking about community seem only to be concerned about the running community and its fans.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:17, the signs were pretty small, but there was also an article in the Observer online with a map of the roads that would be impacted. Not saying it wouldn't have been annoying to be trapped in traffic, but there was a more out there than the signs.

Anonymous said...

We can let today's blog comments be a way of showing our willingness to get along, even when we don't all share the same reactions to the event. I stood near the finish for an hour yesterday cheering on runners as they came in, a stream of humanity who filled me with inspiration. If some traffic tie-ups are all we need to worry about, then life is going pretty well. Good job, Theoden, and everybody!

Anonymous said...

Theoden, thank you for expressing what marathon runners feel. Yesterday was bittersweet for me, as I ran the first four Thunder Road marathons and had to miss yesterday's race because of an injury. But I accompanied a friend in his successful quest to complete his first marathon. I can't wait for next year.

I also agree that the marathon--and other races--makes one connected to the city in ways nothing else can. In my opinion, a marathon is a badge of honor for any city.

Marcus said...

Those same folks complaining about the marathon clogging up traffic are the same folks that clog up traffic with their Panthers games and Nascar races.

Run on!

Melissa said...

This was my first marathon and I want to say that around mile 3, as I ran down Providence Road and saw traffic stopped for us, some drivers had gotten out of their cars to cheer us on. Other drivers rolled down their windows to give High Fives to runners as we powered through the streets. What an amazing feeling, to have that kind of support from those stuck in traffic. I'm sure some drivers were angry and bitter about being caught in it, but I was too busy seeing the happy drivers to notice. Thanks for the support, to everyone who gave it - you made my first marathon perfect!

16 Elements said...

Two runners helping a stranger finish to qualify for Boston... that brings tears to my eyes... this is truly a sport of the heart... only the callous and unknowing could comment otherwise. Well said Theoden!

Anonymous said...

I remember last year that Tim Rhodes from Run For Your Life issued a peress release talking about the positive impact of Thunder Road on the local economy. Not all of the 9000 runners live in Charlotte. Many of them travel to Charlotte, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, shop locally, go to a Bobcats game. Get the picture. In addition, this is the 5th year that this race has been held, and it is always the second weekend in December. I may not know when the panthers have a home game, but if I need to go downtown on a Sunday during football season, I'll check first. A lot of people are making excuses because they could not speed down
Providence Road. To everyone...remember 2nd week in December 2010, there will be a marathon, and be prepared for traffic delays!

Anonymous said...

A lot of people have complained that they did not know about the marathon and could not make alternate plans. I don't know who's responsibility it is to get the word out, but I would guess that Run For Your Life has given out many press releases saying when Thunder road will be held. One big knock I have about Charlotte, is that the local media, TV, newspaper and radio act like they don't even know there is a marathon. Go to any other city, and there are stories about the race for weeks in advance. I have vived in Charlotte since 1982, and I remember when the Charlotte Observer sponsored a marathon ...there were a lot of race stories in the paper then. Even a local TV station did a live broadcast of the race. Where is Oliver Stone when we need him.

Anonymous said...

I can see where people would be annoyed when they're trying to get somewhere and find themselves in the middle of a major event. I have to partially blame the local media for this. I'm shocked that 9,000 can participate in something like this and the lead story on the 6:00 news is that some idiot has stolen a baby Jesus from someone's yard. It makes no sense. WBTV has about 5 seconds worth of footage of the start but that's it. I think we had more coverage of the NY marathon than we did of the one taking place here in our own town.

That being said, I'm very impressed by the community support that these events get. There is a kid who stands in his front yard playing a trumpet every year. I love stuff like that.

I also loved the drivers stuck in traffic who were out cheering. I get a kick from that.

There are probably only a handful of people who saw this one but when I was at the finish line waiting for my husband (I did the half he did the full) a man's chip came off his shoe right in front of me. Before I could react, people moved the barricade and a young lady with a half medal on grabbed it and chased him down so his time would register. Little things like that for a complete stranger make me happy to be involved in these events.