Sunday, February 28, 2010

Charlotte runners dominate Columbia half

It was a good news-bad news kind of day for some of our area's top runners at this past weekend's inaugural Columbia Half Marathon.

The bad news is pretty bad: A police officer accidentally led Charlotte's Matt Jaskot (a 1:16 half-marathoner), Cornelius' Adam Mayes (a 1:24 half-marathoner) and eight other runners in the wrong direction. All 10 of them were toward the front of the pack at the time; all 10 of them did not finish.

The good news, though, is pretty good: Aaron Linz, 36, and Boriana Bakaltcheva, 24, gave Charlotte a sweep of the men's and women's overall titles, cruising to easy victories in their respective races. Linz's 1:16:41 was the top time by more than 12 minutes; Bakaltcheva beat her closest female competitor by more than four. In all, 535 runners completed Saturday's Columbia Half Marathon.

Linz, who led the race from start to finish, had mixed feelings about the experience.

"I planned the race and made the trip looking for some regional competition," Linz said Sunday, "but I never got pushed. While it is always a great feeling to break a tape -- they had an actual finish tape to break, which was cool -- for those that know me, I thrive on big crowds and lots of competition.

"[But] wins are awesome, so I am proud of that."

In addition to not having other runners pushing him, Linz said maintaining a good pace was challenging because he wasn't wearing a GPS watch and much of the course lacked mile markers. "So ... I was going on feel," he said.

Added Linz: "The large margin was a bit false since [runners] 2 through 10 took wrong turns, including Matt and Adam, who were in third and fourth. I had the luxury of a police car escort but without that, the course had way, way too many turns and not enough volunteers to help direct runners. ... There were several turns where it was unclear to me until the cop car was literally halfway through the intersection as to whether we were going left or right."

Bakaltcheva agreed that the course was tricky, but fortunately for her was further back and did not get caught up in the pack that was led astray. She ended up cranking out a PR by a whopping eight minutes (her last -- and only other -- half-marathon was two years ago).

On Sunday, she shared a brief recap of her race via e-mail:

"I had a general idea that I'd be able to run [a 7-minute pace]. The first mile went out on a slight downhill, and to my surprise there was only one female ahead of me. First mile in 6:36 -- yikes! Too fast. I was afraid that the 6:36 might kill me later, but tried to just focus on the next mile. No need to push and pass her just yet.

"I slowed down to the low 7:00s and settled into a comfortable rhythm. Finally around Mile 4, I [overtook] her. For awhile, she kept passing me and falling back and passing me again. I could tell she was getting very tired, and I left her behind somewhere around Mile 5. A long, gradual uphill for Mile 7 came up as we crossed the river. This was the loneliest part of the course and where I hit my slowest splits -- two miles at 7:07 each. I passed a guy around Mile 8, and from then on was entirely alone.

"At this point, I knew I was very comfortably in the lead for the women. In a way, I felt like I could just relax because of that. ... The next mile marker after 8 that I saw was 11, and I was shocked to see that I ran the three-mile stretch in 20:43, which is 6:54s. Wow – two miles to go and I felt just as good as I had most of the race. With a half-mile to go, Aaron, Adam and Matt jumped in and ran the last half-mile with me, keeping up encouraging words, while I pushed hard up the final hill, then back down to the finish.

"It’s quite rare for me to get a win in a race, so I enjoyed the loud cheers [when I was announced as] the 'first woman' very much!"

Linz, Bakaltcheva, Jaskot and Mayes all are members of the Charlotte Running Club.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Odds + ends for my running friends

Here's a bunch of assorted racing news, some of which appeared earlier this month on my Facebook Fan Page:


The River Bound Race Series, a trail running race series I first mentioned a little over a month ago, will kick off with a 5K race on Saturday, March 13, at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. This four-race series will also include a 10K on May 22, a 15K on July 17 and a half marathon on Sept. 25; all races take place on the Whitewater Center’s trails. Proceeds will support North Carolina Outward Bound’s Charlotte programs, including the Unity Project and scholarship assistance for youth, educators, and military veterans attending wilderness courses in the N.C. mountains. For details, click here.

The second annual Earth Day 5K, set for 8 a.m. Saturday, April 17, starts and finishes in downtown Monroe; it is being held in conjuction with family-friendly Earth Day activities taking place nearby. Course is reportedly flat and fast. Proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity in promoting environmentally friendly building practices. Race tees are made from recyclable material. Prizes will be given to runners dressed like “environmentally friendly items” (e.g. a hybrid car, a tulip, a bumblebee, a recycled can, etc.). Register for the costume contest the day of the event. To register, click here.

The sixth annual Morrison Family YMCA 10K/5K Race and 1 Mile Fun Run is set for Saturday, May 15. More than 760 runners participated in 2009. Although the event is still being held at Ballantyne Corporate Park (Exit 61 off I-485), there’s a new certified course with a new start/finish line. Also: Organizers are looking for a catchy new name; if you’ve got suggestions, e-mail them to (limit three ideas, one e-mail per person). Deadline is March 4. Winner gets free race entry and recognition on the day of the event. For more race details, click here.


Female triathletes are invited to a Team TRIumph open house at 7 p.m. Thursday at Brooklyn South Pizza in Cornelius (19400 Jetton Road). Team TRIumph is an all-women’s triathlon and endurance sport training group in the Lake Norman area. New and experienced triathletes welcome. Members train together, and participate in clinics on topics including nutrition, yoga and Pilates. For more on the group, click here. Questions? E-mail

If you do yoga (or want to start), here’s something that might interest you: Asana Activewear is hosting the “Yoga Jam,” a one-day event that brings together 13 Charlotte yoga studios as a showcase for a variety of yoga classes, styles and instructors. It takes place this Saturday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in SouthPark (6300 Morrison Blvd.). Registration is $65 and includes four yoga classes (from a choice of 20), lunch, and goodies from Asana Activewear. Space is limited to 170 people and each class is capped at 35 participants. The beneficiary of the event is Presbyterian Hospital’s Cancer Rehab and Wellness Center. For details, click here.

The 2010 Carolinas Open/Masters Track and Field Invitational will be held on Saturday, April 10, at the Irwin Belk Track and Field Center at UNCC. Track events include 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m, relay, and hurdling races. Open to athletes 19 and older. This is a USATF-sanctioned event and therefore requires that all participants be active USATF members. If you are not a member of USATF, click here to join. For details on the meet, click here.

Got other running-news tips to pass along? Or have ideas for future features? E-mail me at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Flight 8K winner kisses and tells

Thanks to Caitlin Chrisman -- one of the founding members of the Charlotte Running Club -- for contributing this report about Sunday's Winter Flight 8K in Salisbury:

Doing the first race of your new training cycle is like going on a first date.

With the date ... you get nervous because you have no idea if the person likes you. You contemplate the countless scenarios of how the date could play out. If the date goes bad, you want to get it over with sooner. If the date goes great, you maybe get a kiss at the end. And afterward, your friends call you to see how it went.

So as I headed up to Salisbury on Sunday for the Winter Flight 8K -- my first race in more than three months -- I was experiencing some of those same butterflies. I was nervous because I had no idea what kind of racing shape I was in. I contemplated the countless scenarios that could play out. If the race went bad, I'd want it to end ASAP. If the race went great, I'd hopefully wind up with a trophy at the end. And afterward, I knew my friends would call to see how it went.

Anyway, here's my recap of the day's events:

My friend Jay Holder and I hitched a ride up to Salisbury with our Charlotte Running Club teammate Boriana Bakaltcheva. As soon as we arrived on the Catawba College campus, we saw a slew of friends and acquaintances from Charlotte who had come just to cheer us all on, which was extremely exciting. Since the day boasted temperatures in the upper 60s, Jay was kind enough to bring his sport sunscreen so that this semi-albino's skin would not burn during the race. After lathering up, we were off for the warmup.

As we ran, I started getting concerned because my throat seemed really tight, as if I was coming down with a bad head cold. I was wondering if my breathing would be OK during the race. But I pushed these thoughts aside; I knew all I could do was run the best race I could, regardless of the circumstances.

After the warmup, we made our way to the start line to check out our competition. It looked like there were at least four girls who looked capable of running sub-30:00, including 13-year-old Alana Hadley, who has won several races in Charlotte over the past year. Immediately before the gun, I gave fist bumps to friends and foes around me for good luck. The race director blew the horn, and we were off!

I could feel two people on my shoulder, but instead of worrying about them I focused on staying relaxed through the first mile. I settled into a groove with Alana, Molly Nunn (a former teammate of mine at Wake Forest), and some guy in a red shirt. It was nice to settle in behind Red Shirt Guy so that I could get a slight break from the wind. After awhile, I could feel the pace slowing and knew I needed to make a move. Luckily, after the first mile, there was a decent downhill, which is where I pushed down and left Red Shirt Guy and the two girls.

After the move, there were two other guys about 20 meters ahead that I could focus on for the next two miles over the rolling hills. I got a boost of energy when I saw my friends Chris Jones and Todd Mayes standing at the top of the second big hill, especially because they told me that it flattened out from there.

However, not long after that I ran into yet more hills. To take my mind off of them, I focused on the guy that I was reeling in. After climbing one final 400-meter hill in the last mile, we turned back into the Catawba College campus, where the course dropped down before veering onto the track at the school's Shuford Stadium. I felt fantastic considering the heat and the hills.

As I rounded the last turn on the track, I saw the clock ticking away -- 28:37, 28:38, 28:39 -- and I pushed harded so that I would get my reach goal of 28:50-ish. As I stumbled through the chute, I was directed to a table where a woman wrote down my name and time (28:51) with a pen on a piece of paper. Very old-school, but very cool at the same time. I felt like I was in high school again. [Editor's note: Caitlin was the top female finisher, and sixth overall out of 250 finishers. Her average pace was 5:48 per mile.]

After meeting up with Jay (who finished third overall) and winner Bert Rodriguez, we cheered as several more of our friends from Charlotte entered the stadium. Then I went for a cooldown run with Molly, Alana (for a bit), Jay, Boriana, and Bert. We talked about how we each felt at different parts of the race, and about how none of us wanted to run up another hill.

The awards ceremony took place in the college gym and the trophies were probably the biggest I've ever seen. I also won $100! Not bad for my first date -- oops, I mean race -- of 2010.

[Caitlin originally wrote this for her blog, which can be found here. I edited her comments for clarity and brevity.]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You're faster than you think you are

The problem with knowing so many speedy local runners is that I often feel pretty slow.

Here's an example: I'm sort of an honorary member of the Charlotte Running Club (i.e. I occasionally can get to a social event or fun run, but don't run with them on a regular basis), and the Charlotte Running Club boasts some of the city's best runners. Anyway, they put out a weekly e-newsletter, and after a local race, they'll give a rundown of how club members did. And since I am sort of an honorary member, I was included in those rundowns during the 2009 race season. They tended to go a little something like "Jay Holder won the such-and-such 5K, Mike Beigay finished third, Adam Mayes was sixth, Caitlin Chrisman won the women's race, etc., etc., etc. ... and congrats to Théoden Janes, who smoked the course and was 103rd!"

It actually is as funny as it is depressing. (Both of those sentiments aside I'm of course appreciative of the recognition Jay and the gang give me. Also, for the record, the CRC has added a bunch of non-"elite" runners to its ranks since the fall race season.) But I do have to remind myself that I'm actually pretty fast -- and that I've come a looong way since I started racing 16 months ago.

This morning in Dilworth, I was 52nd out of just over 1,000 finishers at the Cupid's Cup 5K, the first big race of the 2010 season. My time of 20:38 (a PR) would put me, by liberal estimates, in the top 5 percent of runners in Charlotte ... and by conservative estimates, I don't know, top 10 percent? Something like that.

Now, I'm not bragging. Like I said, I know the fast people. I know the guy who won the race, Paul Mainwaring, and I know Megan Hovis, who was the top women's finisher at Cupid's. Their average per-mile paces were a minute to a minute-and-a-half faster than mine. Those are humbling statistics. They ran times (15:58 and 17:13, respectively) I'll never touch.

I also know that some of you run 25s or 30s or 35s or 40s for 5Ks. I know that the 25-minute 5Kers look at my time and have a hard time fathoming it; the 30-minute 5Kers look at the 25s the same way; and so on and so forth. And sure, there are some 25ers who won't get down to 23, and there are some 30ers won't get down to 26 or even 28, and so on.

But I can guarantee you one thing: Lots of you will drop those times. I know this because I've dropped mine, considerably, over the past 16 months.

You're reading words written by a guy who had never run a race in his life before turning 35. Never ran track in high school, never jogged for exercise but a handful of times in college; the only running I did "regularly" was during my disappointing baseball career as a youth and during men's-league softball games -- and of course, in those sports, most of the time you're just standing around.

Some of you know this, but when I ran my first race (the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in October of 2008), I was so clueless that I pinned my race chip to my shirt along with my bib, instead of fastening it to my shoelace. I mean, DUH. I ran a 27-something, but it to this day is the only race I have failed to get an official time for. I learned my lesson.

In fact, I learn something every time I race. What works for breakfast. What works for a warmup. When the best time to hit the porto-john is. What going out too hard feels like. What leaving too much in the tank feels like. What forgetting Vaseline during a long-distance race will do to your body. Where to put the chip. And every time I learned something, I got smarter and raced better.

Between mid-October 2008 and mid-February 2009, I cut four minutes off of my 5K time. At last year's Cupid's Cup, I ran a personal best: 22:38.

My progress admittedly has slowed somewhat. It took me a full year to shave off another two minutes and clock today's time. I'm getting closer to my physical peak, and therefore, I've had to work harder and endure tougher workouts to make smaller improvements. Over the next year, I'll have to work even harder and endure even tougher workouts to trim another 39 seconds and drop my 5K time down into the teens. But I think I can do it.

ANYWAY, if it seems like this is all about me, it's not. I mean, it is ... but it isn't. What I'm trying to do is use myself as an example to point out that you can get stronger. You can get faster. If you're insecure at all about your times, you've gotta start doing what I'm learning to do, which is: Stop worrying about how fast everybody else is, and start celebrating how fast you are. Congrats to ALL finishers today.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Talking 5K strategy with 4 very fast runners

If you've never raced a 5K -- I mean really truly raced one -- here's an experiment you can do right now to get an idea of what it's like: Hold your breath for as long as you possibly can ... and then when you can't hold it any longer, hold it for another 30 seconds.

This is exactly why I've grown to dread 5Ks. They hurt. Like a (expletive). Every time. I go out hard and fast, and I spend the last half of the race fighting off the urge to walk. Usually, after I cross the finish line, I either feel like I'm going to die or feel like I'm going to throw up.

Not much of a strategy, I know. But is there a strategy? I asked four local "elites," all of whom are competing in 5Ks in Charlotte this weekend, to share their tactical secrets.

Paul Mainwaring
Race he's running this weekend: The Cupid's Cup 5K.
Most notable recent finish: Third at the 2009 Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte.
5K PR: 15:45, set in London back in 2005.
5K strategy: "To be honest I don't really strategize 5Ks much -- the race is too short. A lot of it is done on the fly, depending on who else is racing, what the course is like and what sort of shape I'm in. If I do have a strategy, though, it depends a lot on who I am racing against and also on the makeup of the course. It is very important to scout out the course beforehand, note where the significant hills, twists and turns are, etc. In an ideal world, you should try [for an] even split, or at least even effort. Too many people head out too fast and pay the price in the last mile. Saturday's race is a classic example of the course dictating strategy. Go out too fast up the hill and you won't be able to take advantage of the last downhill mile. At the same time, the 5K is a short race. If you let your rivals go too far ahead, there's not much time to get back to them. It's a delicate balance."

Danielle Walther
Race she's running this weekend: The UNCC Homecoming 5K.
Most notable recent finish: Sixth overall at the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pa., in October.
5K PR: 18:18.
5K strategy: "My race day strategy starts with picking out a goal finish time range, based on the course, how I've been training, and the weather. Then I review the course map to get a feel for how to break up my mile splits. I write out my goal splits and time, and bring them with me to the race. I never, under any circumstance, eat or wear something new on race day. I like to do an easy two-mile warmup, followed by some strides to get the legs turning over. Once the race starts, I focus on staying relaxed and picking people off. When I hit the third mile, I always tell myself, 'You’re running slower than you think, pick it up.' I may not always pick it up, but I try."

Billy Shue
Race he's running this weekend: The UNCC Homecoming 5K.
Most notable recent finish: Fifth at the Thunder Road Marathon in December.
5K PR: 17:09 at the Mt. Mourne 5K in January.
5K strategy: "Having really just gotten into competitive racing within the last year, I have learned quite a lot in terms of strategizing for the 5K race. First of all, it's critical to get in a quality warmup of about two to three miles, or an easy 15 to 20 minutes, to get the legs loose. Ideally, you should warm up on the race course, so that there are no surprises during the race, if you aren't already familiar with the course. Secondly, it's important that you control yourself on that first mile and resist the urge to surge so early in the race. You should focus on good technique and running smooth on that initial mile, which leads me to my next point -- building the intensity. You should try to crank up the intensity with each mile, so that you're able to effectively give everything you have on that last mile."

Christopher Lamperski
Race he's running this weekend: The Cupid's Cup 5K.
Most notable recent finish: First at the Critz Tybee Half Marathon earlier this month.
5K PR: 15:27.
5K strategy: "I look up previous results and it helps me gauge what type of course it is based upon the times run. When I get to the race, I try to get about two miles of warming up, at least with some strides and dynamic warmup drills. By then, it's time to hit the starting line, where I can get my true scope of who will be racing. This allows me to initially plan out a race right there on the spot, even though I have something fairly planned beforehand. If I know there will be some people pushing for an honest pace, I prep myself mentally to withstand a quick start to stay near the lead pack. After that, it just becomes racing -- it's either hold on for dear life, play the surge game to break people, or wait till the end to kick with everything you have left."

Do you have a 5K strategy ... or do you do what I do (i.e. just run like crazy)?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Odds + ends for my running friends

Here's a bunch of assorted racing news, most of which appeared earlier this week on my Facebook Fan Page:

  • Several area races taking place this weekend. Two are makeups: The Cupid's Cup 5K, postponed from last Saturday due to the snow, is now set for 8 a.m. this Saturday in Dilworth; and the Winter Flight 8K, postponed from Jan. 30 due to the weather, is now going off at 2 p.m. this Sunday in Salisbury. Also this weekend: The UNC Charlotte Homecoming 5K takes place at 9 a.m. Saturday on the UNCC campus (details are here), and at the same time, on the west side of town, the first annual hardCORE serious trail runner 8k is being hosted by the U.S. National Whitewater Center (details are here). The weather forecast is currently favorable, so we should be running this weekend...
  • Early registration for Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon is now open. Prices are $75 for the full marathon, $45 for the half and $25 for the 5K. Race day is Saturday, Dec. 11.
  • New race announcement: The Sandy Feet 5K and Fun Run will be held in downtown Matthews on May 1 (same weekend as the Matthews BeachFest). Click here to register or for more details. Proceeds will be donated to local charities that support individuals with developmental disabilities and Special Olympics. Also, organizer Jen Lynch is in search of sponsors. Got a business in that area that you want to promote? Contact
  • Need help with your form? At 6 p.m. Wednesday, TrySports Charlotte (9830 Rea Road) will host a discussion/demonstration by Performance Therapy's Mike Danenberg on "how to run biomechanically efficient." You'll be able to practice what you’ve learned (and get feedback on your form), so come dressed to run outdoors. RSVP to A similar workshop will be held at the same time NEXT Wednesday (2/24).
  • Help a good cause and maybe win some cool swag! Reader Laura Buchanan -- whose almost-2-year-old daughter suffers from an extremely rare genetic brain malformation -- is training to run the Cooper River Bridge Run in March to help raise money and awareness for Joubert Syndrome. Check out how to donate/enter a special raffle by clicking here.
  • An update from a Palmetto200 Relay spokesman: "We have 32 teams -- 28 full and four ultra teams, including around 5-10 from the Charlotte area. We are really excited about the response we have from up there. Registration is now $1,200 for full and $600 for ultra, until March 30. We expect to have 40-50 teams for the race."

Myrtle Beach: The race that never was

Thanks to Peter Asciutto -- the owner of Vac & Dash in Albemarle -- for contributing this report about Saturday's snowed-out Myrtle Beach Marathon:

The Myrtle Beach Marathon Expo was buzzing with excitement. Snow was on the way. The 5K race would start at 7 o'clock Friday night, with the Marathon and Half Marathon starting 12 hours later. According to the forecast, snow was guaranteed. There was no mention of ice, a runner's worst nightmare, as the temperature was to stay above freezing.

What a marketing coup for Myrtle Beach, I thought. Snow is so rare for the resort town. To have it fall the night before the marathon would make for a memorable race for the thousands of runners that traveled in for the 13.1- and 26.2-mile races. I was thinking of my friends, Angie Greenlee, John Bates and Sherri Swaringen being able to say they ran their first marathon in the virgin snow at Myrtle Beach.

I was a part of a group of 65 runners from Stanly County who made the 180-mile trip for the weekend races. Just after 6 p.m. Friday, we got word that the city was going to decide at 10 p.m. whether or not they would have the Saturday-morning races. You've gotta be kidding, I thought.

A group of us went to watch our buddies run the 5K, and 15 minutes before it started, the snow started dropping. It was great. By the time we walked over to the finish line at Coastal Carolina Stadium, the white stuff was falling heavy. The stadium lights enhanced the beauty of the winter evening. More than a dozen of us cheered on our 25 friends as they ran down the finishers' chute.

Leaving the stadium, we expected the race to go on. Just after 10 p.m., city officials cancelled the dreams of many. "Unbelievable," I said to my friend Rick Johnson. "It never ceases to amaze me how society changes plans based on what the weather might be, rather than what the weather actually is." We couldn't understand why they couldn't move the race to 8 or 9 so they could make a better decision in the morning. [The start originally had been set for 6:30 a.m.]

Using Facebook and cell phones, we got the word out that we would go to the start on Saturday morning and run anyway. When I stepped out the door just after sunrise, I knew city officials had screwed up. Sure, there were three inches of snow on the grass; however, there was not speck of snow on the roads. It never stuck to the warm surface. Conditions were perfect to run. Let me repeat, since Myrtle Beach Officials are stating otherwise: Conditions were perfect to run!

A dozen of us joined hundreds of other renegade runners participating in the "unofficial" version of the Myrtle Beach Marathon and Half Marathon. I did get some memories out of the experience.

Peter and his crew set out on their long run in Myrtle Beach. Note the condition of the roads.

My friend Emily Thompson stumbled and flattened out like a pancake on Ocean Boulevard. She left some DNA on the road, and has the battle scars to prove it. Road conditions were good, she just tripped. Around Mile 5, I thought I was going to have to find a place to write my name in the snow; fortunately, I came upon Porta-Potty.

Around Mile 7, Rick and I stopped and took pictures of two female runners from Greenville making angels in the snow. One of the ladies was four months pregnant. Around Mile 9, we saw another friend, Rita Phillips, driving by and flagged her down to bum five bucks to buy Gatorade at the Quickie Mart.

I did get a pleasant surprise when we finished, as race officials were handing out medals to those that ran that morning. It's the first Half Marathon medal I've gotten for running 11.8 miles.

Even though I had fun making the most of the cancellation, I still felt somewhat empty. I got the feeling that many runners felt the city didn't do what they could to deliver what they promised. They had no backup plan, so they jumped the gun on canceling the race.

Even after the fact, city officials didn't get it. They were all over the news saying that they were concerned about the safety of the runners. They even criticized us for hitting the streets, saying it was dangerous to do so with no support from the city. One of the official quotes was that if their decision prevented one person from getting injured, then cancelling the race was worth it.

This is in a city where they allow people to swim in the ocean where each year a few of them drown and others get bitten by sharks!

Now the City of Myrtle Beach has a marketing nightmare on their hands. It's going to be interesting to see what happens next year. My guess is that runners will be very hesitant to spend hundreds of dollars on travel and risk their investment of months of training going to a city that pulls away the red carpet when the going gets tough.

Peter Asciutto can be reached at

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Myrtle Beach Marathon canceled; no refunds

Myrtle Beach officials have canceled Saturday's Bi-Lo Marathon because of the snowstorm -- which The Myrtle Beach Sun-News reports is the first one to hit the city's shores in 10 years.

The City of Myrtle Beach issued the following press release tonight:
"We regret to report that the BI-LO Myrtle Beach Marathon has been cancelled for tomorrow, Saturday, February 13. The city staff has monitored weather conditions and delayed making a decision as long as practical, in hope that the forecast would improve. Unfortunately, the forecast consistently calls for snow accumulations overnight, raising concerns about the safety of all involved in the marathon.

"The marathon course is not completely closed, which means that runners and cars must safely co-exist on city streets. Given the potentially dangerous surface conditions which may exist tomorrow morning, that would not be the case. Safety is paramount for the runners, motorists and volunteers who assist, as well as for city employees who set up the course and monitor the intersections.

"The BI-LO Myrtle Beach Marathon is valued by the entire community, and we do not make this decision lightly. We are disappointed by the cancellation, but believe this action is necessary to ensure the safety of our guests, volunteers and staff members."
Good call? Probably. But I've heard in the past hour from multiple runners -- runners who paid for hotel rooms and in some cases took time off from work -- that they've been told there will be no makeup date ... and no refunds.

Could race officials not have tried again Sunday? Lots of participants wouldn't have been able to make it, but many probably could have. Or could, say, a 50 percent refund been arranged? Stuff happens, sure. But I wonder if MB isn't making a bad situation worse...

Cupid's Cup 5K postponed due to forecast

With Charlotte almost certain to get 1 to 3 inches of snow overnight, Cupid's Cup 5K officials have made the decision to postpone the popular race in Dilworth until next weekend.

The following is from an e-mail sent by organizers (that message should, in fact, be hitting registered participants' inboxes any minute -- if it's not already there):

"We consulted with the City of Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, and our race management team, and made the decision to reschedule the 6th Annual Cupid’s Cup 5K & Fitness Walk to ensure the safety of participants and volunteers. We are truly sorry for the inconvenience, but feel conditions may not be favorable for a road race in the morning.

"The event will be held Saturday, February 20th at 8 a.m. Details will be available on our Web site ( as well as via e-mail should there be any updates regarding the make-up day. Packet pick-up and registration will continue through February 19th at 7 p.m. at Charlotte Running Company on East Blvd. Thank you for supporting Cupid’s Cup 5K & Fitness Walk and Cardiovascular health programs at Carolinas Medical Center."

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

'Running Into Love,' Part Four

This week, in honor of Valentine's Day, I've been featuring a series of short love stories -- as told by a local runner whose relationship was forged on the asphalt.

Closing us out is LANA TORKILDSEN, 43, of Matthews:

"I moved to Charlotte in 2001 for personal reasons and tried to establish myself in the Charlotte running community. I met Tom at a running club a couple of months later. At the time, I was already involved in a relationship, but was glad to meet other runners through his connections. For a couple of years, I would see Tom in various races and chatted with him from time to time, but my most memorable moment was when he would race by me in his purple tights. I knew he raced every weekend and thought he was insane.

We fast forward to the day before the Turkey Trot in 2003. I saw Tom again at the expo and started chatting with him again. We were both single at the time, and our friendship was merely platonic. I was surprised when he asked me out after the Turkey Trot, so we went on our first date on Nov. 29, 2003. Cupid’s arrow hit its mark on this date, and we were inseparable. He proposed to me the following month on New Year’s Eve.

We were lucky to find a place to hold our wedding on Valentine’s Day in 2004. When we were planning the wedding, we decided not to get too extravagant -- and being untraditional individuals, we wanted to do something different. So we had a 2.2-mile fun run/walk at Francis Beatty Ford Park, with the ceremony and breakfast reception held afterward. We had T-shirts made up with the logo “I Do 2.2” with our pictures on them, to give to our wedding guests. In fact, we normally wear these T-shirts during the Cupid’s Cup race -- which we will both be running on Saturday.

This Sunday, Valentine's Day, will mark our six-year wedding anniversary!!"
Lana Torkildsen is the current president of the Charlotte Track and Triathlon Club.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'Running Into Love,' Part Three

Between now and Thursday, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'll feature four short love stories -- as told by a local runner whose relationship was forged on the asphalt.

Up third is EMILY MALONE, 28, of Charlotte:

My husband and I didn't fall IN love because of running, but it certainly brought us closer together. In the fall of 2007, we had been dating for two years, and I had just gotten started with running.

Casey was already in good shape and a fast runner, but he hadn't done any training or races. Despite my longest distance run only being a 10K, my best friend and I signed up to run a full marathon after her father passed away from lung cancer. Since Casey was a good runner, I asked him if he would consider doing the marathon too, so that we could go through the experience and ups and downs together. Without a second thought, he signed up too, and made an even bigger additional commitment -- quitting a 10-year smoking habit. Going through training together brought us even closer together, and made us both fall further in love with each other, as well as with running.

During training in March of 2008, Casey surprised me with an engagement ring the night before the Emerald Miles 5K in Cincinnati. I ran the next morning with all my family and friends, a huge smile on my face, and a sparkly ring on my finger. In May of 2008, we all ran our first marathon -- the Flying Pig -- and shared the joys of our success together.

The following year, while once again training for the Flying Pig Marathon, Casey and I celebrated our engagement anniversary by running the 2009 Emerald Miles 5K, and this time we both won age group awards! He placed first, and I placed second -- an accomplishment I never thought possible having just started running less than two years ago...

Despite protests from our family and friends, we decided to train for the 2009 Flying Pig Marathon, just SIX days before our wedding. We found that training during wedding planning gave us something other than the wedding details to focus on, and kept us level-headed and relaxed. Running was the perfect stress-reliever, and long runs gave us the perfect escape to spend uninterrupted time together. The Sunday before we got married, we both ran the marathon in personal-best times, and had amazing "runners highs" going into our wedding weekend. I would do it again in an instant!

Here we are two years and nine combined marathons later, once again training for our favorite marathon in May, and looking forward to celebrating our first wedding anniversary. Running didn't necessarily bring us together, but it gave us a shared love for a sport that has changed our lives and our health in so many ways. This year we are celebrating Valentine's Day with our usual Sunday morning long run, which just happens to be 14 miles!
Emily Malone is the author of a popular healthy living blog, which you can check out by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

'Running Into Love,' Part Two

Between now and Thursday, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'll feature four short love stories -- as told by a local runner whose relationship was forged on the asphalt.

Up second is LAUREN BARKER, 27, of Denver, N.C.:
"Dan and I met in the fall of 2002, my junior year of college. I had only started running two months prior, as a means for losing weight. As we got to know each other, we began running together.

Eight months later we began dating ... and running! We ran a few races together prior to getting married in 2006, and only after we were married did we become more serious about the sport.

We’ve had the joy of bringing home awards at our local 5Ks, and running much larger races together: Thunder Road, OBX, the Turkey Trot, the Childress Klein YMCA Corporate Cup ... although now I spend most of my time chasing him, as he is much faster!

My 2010 goal is to complete a marathon, and even though Dan’s pace exceeds mine, he’s committed to helping me accomplish my goal. I’m very fortunate to have a runner in my life -- who supports me in all I set out to do!"
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Monday, February 8, 2010

'Running Into Love,' Part One

Between now and Thursday, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'll feature four short love stories -- as told by a local runner whose relationship was forged on the asphalt.

Up first is MARK HADLEY, 40, of Charlotte:
"In 1986, I was a senior in high school and being recruited to come and run cross-country and track for the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). During my recruiting trip, I was supposed to be shown around campus by a freshman runner from Charlotte, N.C.

The first day, the coach and she got the location mixed up; the second day she and the coach got the time mixed up; so she and I never met, and I was escorted around by someone else.

A year later, I arrived at Ole Miss and finally met Jennifer DeCann -- and within a few months, we began dating. Four years later, we graduated and got married. That was in 1991. Now, almost 19 years and thousands of running miles later, we are still happily married and have three great kids, two of which are also runners.

Running has been good to us."
Mark Hadley is the father of 13-year-old phenom Alana Hadley. The above photo is from his and Jennifer's wedding day (July 20, 1991), and to those who know him, he says: "Yes, I really had hair back then."

Cupid 5K: 'One of the fastest finishes in N.C.'

After a spotty month for racing due to wintry weather, scores of runners will coming out of hibernation this weekend for what could wind up being the city's largest 5K of the winter.

The Cupid's Cup 5K and Fitness Walk -- set for Saturday in Dilworth -- has exploded in popularity since the inaugural event in 2005, when just a few hundred people ran it. This year, organizers are expecting 1,500-1,800 participants.

Part of it has to do with the fact that many runners are itching to tie chip timers back onto their shoelaces after a couple months away from racing (the last big Charlotte 5K was Thunder Road on Dec. 12). But another factor is the unique course.

Runners line up on East Boulevard, about 300 meters west of Queens Road, and head west up East. The first 1,000 meters represent a steady (but not too steep) climb, then the route turns right onto Dilworth Road East. After a quick downhill -- about 400 meters long -- everyone turns left onto Romany Road; another gradual climb leads runners onto Park Avenue briefly, then the course turns left onto a flattish part of Euclid Avenue.

Getting bored? Snap out of it, because here comes the unique part: After two blocks along Euclid, everyone turns left and gets back onto East ... and for a mile and a quarter, it's virtually all downhill to the finish.

"A strong runner who has paced themselves through the earlier miles can potentially run a negative split, which will set them up nicely for a fast time," says Scott Dvorak, race director and owner of Charlotte Running Company. "I'd have to say that's my favorite aspect of this course. I love to see the runners storming down East Boulevard!"

Dvorak says he would rate the course about a 6 on a 1-to-10 difficulty scale, but adds: "I would say that the course does have PR potential. The hills are gradual and come early enough that there is time to recover for one of the fastest finishes in the state. Anytime you have a race where the last one-third of the race is all downhill, there's potential to run fast!"

Some other details about the Cupid's Cup 5K, courtesy of Kirstin Ashford, director of communications for Carolinas HealthCare Foundation:

About the cause: The race proceeds benefit cardiovascular health and rehabilitation programs at Carolinas Medical Center, providing resources for patient education and outreach, as well as programmatic and equipment upgrades.

About the event's increased popularity: "We actually had 1,500 total participants last year, including walkers (and) folks who signed up day-of. In '08 it was 1,200, including volunteers. I think the event is popular because it is well-publicized; well-run -- no pun intended; features a great route; supports a great cause, in a month where you're actually thinking of 'hearts,' too; and sign-up time falls right when folks are thinking about healthy routines and New Year's resolutions. ... We have also had tremendous support from our presenting sponsor, Brinkley Financial Group."

About the couples and team categories: "(They) certainly add a fun element to the race. It's also a great way to encourage classmates, spouses, friends, and other family members to support each other and work out together. What better incentive than a persistent wife who says, 'Honey, ya better get off the couch and run a bit, or I'm going to run circles around you in that 5K'? Prizes include wine and heart-healthy candy -- perfect timing for Valentine’s Day!"

Odds and ends: The race also supports Heart of a Champion Day, which provides free cardiovascular screenings to over a thousand student-athletes in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools -- 1,200 last year, more expected this year. ... You can see the logo that will be used on the race T-shirts at right. ... And there will be food from Jersey Mike's Subs, coffee from Starbucks, and fruit and bagels from Earth Fare.

Registration for the Cupid's Cup 5K is $25 (or $20 for the 1.5-mile Fitness Walk). Register here.

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Charlottean wins 1/2 marathon despite pit stop

Last month, Christopher Lamperski gave us a lesson in preparation, providing several tips on how to prepare for your first sprint triathlon. Last weekend, the speedy 28-year-old competed in the Critz Tybee Run Half Marathon -- and encountered an issue he wasn't prepared for at all.

Here's an excerpt from a Savannah Morning News story about the race that was published in Sunday's editions:
When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Christopher Lamperski visited a portable toilet -- during the race -- and still won the Critz Tybee Run Half-Marathon.

Lamperski, who turned 28 on Saturday, finished the 13.1-mile course on Tybee Island in 1 hour, 13 minutes, 4 seconds. Wes Hutcherson, 26, of Atlanta, finished second in 1:14:31.

"At Mile 4, I didn't feel so great," said Lamperski, of Charlotte, N.C. "At Mile 8, I knew I didn't feel good at all. And at (Mile) 11, I said, 'I have to stop.' I told the course people in front of me that I had to stop very, very soon."

Race officials directed Lamperski, who was leading the race, to the nearest portable toilet.

"I looked back and I didn't really see anybody behind me," Lamperski said. "He said I had a minute-and-a-half lead, so I went ahead and stopped. That's never happened before. I've never had to stop in a race. I trained to run the race at a faster pace, so I had a good lead."

When Lamperski returned to the race, he was unable to break the 1:11:30 mark that he set as his goal. He also failed to break his personal-best 1:12:40.

But as word spread of the situation Lamperski overcame to win the race, people were in awe.

"That's never happened here before. That is a first," said race director Robert Espinoza, smiling as he shook his head in disbelief.

Espinoza said Lamperski's "pit stop" was within the race's rules.

"Absolutely, it's within the rules," Espinoza said. "We actually had a spotter on a bike watching him ... well, not watching him literally, but making sure that he didn't take a shortcut or anything like that."

Yeah, it's within the rules. He took a bathroom break and that's fine. He had a big enough lead, and he still looked fresh when he finished."

Lamperski traveled to Tybee Island with five runners, all members of a team named TrySports. He wore a red headband that read "Pain Train" and a shirt that read "Believe. Achieve."

"We always say, 'Come jump on the Pain Train,' so my buddies got that (printed) on there," he said. "We wear that, and our motto is 'Grind to shine.'"

You can also watch an interview with Chris and see him flying to the finish line in this clip courtesy of, the newspaper's Web site (the portion featuring him runs from 1:20-2:14).

In an e-mail to me Sunday night, he added:

"The race weather was perfect as far as temperature, but it was extremely windy unfortunately. ... I ran solo for about 12.25 miles so it wasn't a whole lot of fun for me because I just kept my eye on the cars and moped in front leading. My watch time with stopping was 1:12:18, but I think that I had a few extra seconds in there because I didn't start and stop it immediately. I am debating on whether or not to give another half marathon a shot with a more competitive field. I have a sub-1:11 in the tank, but I just need to figure out if I can schedule it in after Cupid's Cup."

A total of 1,236 runners ran the Tybee half on Saturday, including several other locals who performed extremely well. Among them: Billy Shue of Charlotte (1:18:01), Michael Heafner of Belmont (1:20:21), Mike Moran of Denver (1:22:48), Robert Mooring of Gastonia (1:32:55), and Laura Carpenter of Charlotte (1:38:19), and Cheryl Todd of Davidson (1:40:04). And Glenn Carroll of Charlotte finished 12th out of 1,256 runners in the 5K, with a time of 19:18.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Run a little, help Haiti a lot

UPDATED INFO at 10:28 a.m. Friday!

From Jay Holder of the Charlotte Running Club: "Due to flooding issues at McAlpine Park, we are moving tomorrow's Dollars for Distance Event to the Dowd YMCA (400 East Morehead St. near uptown). We will meet on the back porch at 8 a.m. and run in the direction of Freedom Park. Other than that, the concept remains the same. We hope you can still make it. (CRC Chairman) Aaron Linz and I will be there to collect donations, and help people split into pace groups. See you in the morning!"

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UPDATED INFO at 10:07 a.m. Thursday!

From Tom Walsh at TrySports: "We are going on with the TrySports fun run (Haiti fundraiser) -- rain, shine, snow, sleet or ice! Crossing our fingers and hoping for the best!"

From Jay Holder of the Charlotte Running Club: "The Dollars for Distance event is going to be rain or shine. We talked about moving it back, but ultimately decided runners are a pretty crazy group and will come out in the rain."

Also, in regards to the latter event, I just got an e-mail from Eimear Goggin of the Charlotte Running Club. She says if you can't make it to McAlpine Park on Saturday but still want to contribute, just keep track of the miles you do that day in your neighborhood or at your gym, then arrange to get a donation into a club board member's hands. E-mail for details on how to do that. If you're injured, she says, you're welcome to show up Saturday and sponsor another runner.

If you're interested in meeting some new runners while helping earthquake victims in Haiti, you'll have two choices this Saturday.

And you will indeed have to choose -- because by (apparently) coincidence, both the Charlotte Running Club and the TrySports store in the Blakeney Shopping Center have scheduled fun runs/fundraisers at overlapping times on the same morning.

TrySports' "Run For Haiti" is likely to be the more organized of the two events. The combination 3 Mile Fun Run and Shoe Donation Drive is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and participants are being asked to donate $20 and/or pairs of used or new shoes. All profits will be donated directly to the American Red Cross; the shoes will get to Haiti by way of Deserving Soles. Store is at 9830 Rea Road, Suite H. Details: 704-544-4626.

But the Charlotte Running Club's "Dollars for Distance" fundraiser, scheduled for McAlpine Creek Park (8711 Monroe Road), has a more novel concept: Runners will meet at the park's main entrance at 8 a.m., divide up into pace groups, and start running. When you're tired, just stop, tally up your miles, and donate a dollar for every mile you've run (cash or check will be accepted). All proceeds go directly to the Red Cross Relief Fund.

Presumably, these two events -- which are taking place less than 20 minutes away from each other -- were scheduled independently and not intended to compete. That's a little unfortunate, since I'd have made a point to attend both if they'd been planned on separate days.

Still, I'd strongly endorse either of these runs. The CRC and TrySports are wonderful contributors to the local running community, and I hope the turnouts are terrific at both McAlpine and Blakeney. The more money these two organizations can raise for earthquake victims in Haiti, the better.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Odds + ends for my running friends

Here's a bunch of assorted racing news, most of which appeared earlier this week on my Facebook Fan Page:

  • The first annual hardCORE serious trail runner 8k will take place at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on Saturday, Feb. 20. For runners who want to get a preview of the course, there will be a practice run this Sunday (Feb. 6) at 10 a.m., weather permitting. (Please check before heading out to make sure the trails will be open.) This 8K course "contains roots, hills, rocks, uneven dirt and possibly muddy surfaces." On Feb. 20, gun time is 9 a.m.
  • The Valentine's Day 5K in Denver, N.C. allows pairs -- whether they're married, dating or just friends -- to compete in a special couples division. It's on Saturday, Feb. 13, same day as the Cupid's Cup 5K in Dilworth. Worth considering if you live in the LKN area ... or just want a race with a smaller-town feel. (Thanks, Lauren Barker, for the tip!)
  • Speaking of the Cupid's Cup, 5K entry fees go up $2 on Saturday, from $23 to $25. Meanwhile ... Entry fees for the Alston+Bird LLP Corporate Cup increase pretty significantly on Saturday -- from $20 to $30 for the 5K, and from $35 to $45 for the Half Marathon.
  • The first Run the Creek 5K is set for Saturday, March 20. Course will traverse the rolling hills of Highland Creek, proceeds benefit my friend Scott Campbell's wonderful Garrett's Wings foundation, which supports terminally ill children and their families. (Scott lost his son to Infantile NCL in 2007.)
  • Runners who are registered for the Uwharrie Mountain Run should have received an e-mail this afternoon stating that the 8-, 20- and 40-mile races scheduled for Saturday are ON. Keep your fingers crossed for reasonable conditions.
  • And finally: In the photo below, Amelia Slagle of Davidson hams it up for Runner's World Magazine after running a 3:03:47 at the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando on Jan 10. In the Charlotte Running Club newsletter, she's quoted as saying: "They pulled me aside at the end of the race and asked me to sign some sheet of paper and I was so delirious I had no idea what it was for. And then they ...brought me in a green room to take pics!"