“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 Bibrave.com 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.
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. http://www.athlinks.com
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.