Fast, Flat (they say) & Fun-Tobacco Road Half Marathon Review

“Disclaimer: I received an entry to Tobacco Road Half/Full Marathon  as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find and write race reviews”

At last…we met again. I ran Tobacco Road Half Marathon for the first time back in 2016, so I figured it would be fun to revisit it. Plus it is a local race for me, and I always try to give all my local races a little love. So how did I fair….let’s find out.


The expo was modest size compared to some other races I have attended but it was well-organized for the most part. The had a long table with printouts has you walk up to the expo entrance to look up your bib number. Once you enter, bib pickup for the marathon and half marathon were clearly marked and there wasn’t a huge line waiting. I was running the half marathon, which was coined he Feetures Half Marathon. One of the perks for running Tobacco Road, was that every runner was to receive a free pair of feetures socks….well I didn’t get mine. This is one of the areas I think needs to be improved upon in the future. I spoke with other runners that didn’t get their socks, and it was due to it not being clearly marked and directions given once you picked up your bib. It would have been better if the individuals handing out the bibs would say something like “don’t forget to get your socks, they are located ….”. I didn’t recall seeing a sign, but I found out later that the table for the socks was beside the t-shirt pickup for the marathon. Apparently I walked passed it to pick-up my half marathon shirt, but as I mentioned, there was no clear signage there. I will be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit salty about missing out on the socks. Lol


Parking Passes are GOLD. The marathons start/end at a baseball park and parking is extremely limited. Mix that with the fact the park is located in the middle of a residential area, there is not any parking for spectators. If you plan to run this race, BUY A PARKING PASS EARLY. I was lucky enough that someone gave me one of theirs. The parking pass allows you to park about 100 yards from the start. They warn runners with passes to be parked by 5:30am(race starts at 7), yeah that is an hour and a half before the race but you can hang out in your car while you wait or hit up the potty before it gets crazy. Those runners that don’t have a pass and spectators, have to get to the race via shuttle. The last shuttle leaves at 5:30 for runners and it is about a 10 minute ride to the start.


The Tobacco Road Marathon bills itself as being “Fast, Flat and Fun”, and for that reason it is usually a popular race. It is especially popular for marathoners looking to BQ, they say it is the perfect race. A quick sidenote, the winner of the marathon ran a 2:32 Sunday. Besides the BQ hunters, half marathoners also have a great shot of setting new PRs.


90% of this race takes place on the American Tobacco Trail. The trail is mostly paved with some areas being tightly packed gravel. While the race is billed as “flat”, that is not entirely true. You are running on a road for the first 3 miles before you enter the trail, and that road is definitely not flat. Once you enter the trail, it is majority flat with a few small humps(not really large enough to call hills) sprinkled throughout. You are on a flat surface for a while until you exit out of the trail back onto the road at mile 10. From there you have to fight through the same hills you fought at the beginning of the race before finishing into the park.

Water Stops

There were plenty of water stops throughout the race. I would say they had a water stop every 1.5-2 miles. The water stops were equipped with water and some also had Gatorade.


I can’t stress this enough…if you are a runner that feeds off of crowds/spectators, you will NOT have much of that for this race. This is the main reason, Tobacco Road isn’t one of my favorites races. Yes it is flat(mostly) and fast but I feed so much off of crowds, and you don’t get much of that with this race. I mentioned the race is mostly on a trail, and there is just no place for spectators to camp out. All you see is trees, other runners and the volunteers at the water stops. You will find a handful of spectators that will be cheering at openings when the trail crosses over the highway but that is about it. You will also see a few scattered spectators on the road portion(first & last 3 miles). Outside of that, the most spectators you will see are going to be on the final stretch heading into the finish.

How Did I Do

I really didn’t come into this race with any huge expectations. I only signed up 3 weeks prior and I was under the weather for a week between then and the race. My training wasn’t what I am used to, I typically train 4-5 days a week but I was only running 3 leading up to the race. The weather was almost perfect, low 40s I think. Once the race started, I didn’t feel too bad. I was clocking either 8 or sub 8 miles throughout,  but I also realized I wasn’t pushing myself very hard. Majority of the race, I found myself wedged in between the 1:40 pacer and the 1:45 pacer. I was nursing a cough and it began to bother me at mile 11 so I lost some momentum. Around mile 11.5/12 I was passed by the 1:45 pacer. So with that, also went my chance of PR. I stayed within striking distance of the 1:45 guy but I made the mistake of not checking my watch. As I was coming around the final curve and could see the finish, I saw the clock say 1:44. That means that 1:45 pacer was ahead of pace and if I had pushed, I probably could have PR’d. My PR is 1:43, I crossed the finish line at 1:44:34. With being sick and lac k of training, I was proud of my finish and who knows, maybe I will be back to fight Tobacco Road again. For now I’ll just sit back and wait for my results to hit Athlinks.


If you are looking for a PR, this is your race….ESPECIALLY if you are trying to BQ. It is mostly flat and you will put up a fast time. Just make sure you have some good running music, unless you like to listen to the trees.


My Chocolate Dream-Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Charlotte

“Disclaimer: I received an entry to  Allstate Hot Chocolate 5K/15K as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming Bibrave Pro(ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!”

I literally could hardly wait for this race. Not only was it my first race of 2018, but it was also my first time running a AllState Hot Chocolate series race. I had seen several running friends post about running the hot chocolate races, but I never had the opportunity since there was not one held in the state of NC. When I learned they were holding their inaugural one in Charlotte, NC, I jumped at the chance.


I was sweating trying to get to the expo. I had about a 2.5 hour drive and due to things beyond my control, we left later than I planned. Due to the fact there was no race-day packet pickup, I had to make it in time.  In the end, all worked out fine, we arrived at the expo right before 5:30(expo closed at 6) The expo itself, wasn’t as large as many others I have attended in the past, but it served it’s purpose. Checking in was a breeze since all you had to do was pull up the barcode from your email, they just scanned right from your phone. Added perk was the little samples of hot chocolate you got on your way out.


Rain was in the forecast all week leading up to the race, but I was happy when the percentage dropped the night before. There was still some drizzle but I decided to walk to the starting line rather than driving.(about 1.5 miles from my hotel). At the start you are welcomed by giant inflatable marshmellow people and music. Since there was a 5k and 15k, the 5k folks were sent off at 7:45 with the 15k getting started at 8:05. Having a race began on time is always a huge plus.

The course itself was surprisly  HILLY. I had friends tell me that Charlotte was not that hilly, and they clearly lied. We encountered our first hill a mile in, and the fun just keep coming throughout the remaining 8 miles. There seem to be water stops about every 2 miles, which was plenty for a cloudy, rainy day in the 50s. The police presence was amazing throughout the course. Every intersection had a cop, which helped make it a safe experience for all the runners. Upon crossing the finish line, you are meet with some sweet looking medals in the shape of once-bitten chocolate bars. After you receive your medal it was a short walk to the post-race festivities. There we were greeted with a huge chocolate mug, and inside the mug was: cup of hot chocolate, rice krispy treat, marshmallow, pretzels, cookies and a warm section of melted dark chocolate for dipping everything in. It was AMAZING.


The race has got to have the best swag I’ve received in a while. No regular t-shirts here, at the Allstate Hot chocolate 5k/15k you get a very nice fleece pullover to rock. I don’t know if the swag is the same during the hot months but a fleece pullover during the winter months is a definite welcomed sight.


No doubt about it, if you have the opportunity…RUN one of the Allstate Hot Chocolate races. It is a good distance, especially for runners that don’t want to take on a half marathon distance.  I promise, you will not be disappointed. I’ll be checking my results on Athlinks and seeing how my rivals performed.