2022 Tobacco Road Marathon

Today, was the Tobacco Road Marathon after cancellation and a year of the delayed event due to the COVID restrictions. It was a perfect day, perfect weather, and a perfect venue for an event. Like the first year, I participated at Umstead 100, this will be my last long run in preparation for the event. 

Last year the organizers divided the event into two days, Saturday the full and Sunday the half. That provided me with the opportunity to run both days and complete a feat that I do not think many could do, to complete officially both the Full and the Half in the same year. Going back to the normal event meant that that is not possible given that the event went back to a single day for both distances. One change from last year is the window start time. A runner could start right a 7:00 AM or any time after 7 until 7:30. That was something that was welcome last year and the coordinators decided to keep it.

Also this year, I am coming back to help with pacing the 4:35 full marathon. My friend BD was looking for volunteers and took the opportunity to help out and make sure not to press too much the pace given that this is more a preparation event.

The Expo was back after not having one last year. Not as many vendors or booths, as prior to the pandemic. But it was really nice to browse around and talk to other friends and runners. I looked at the different booths and picket up the Pacer’s shirt that the pacers were all going to wear during the event.

The morning routine was the same as any long event. No changes to the breakfast and morning prep. Got to the area with enough time, feeling good and excited to see all the runners, and talked to the many that had questions about how the pacing was going to work.

The venue was missing some of the featured tents due to construction in the area, the few tents, drop off. But still, the very nice open area was very nice. I was able to talk to some of the runners, catch up with many friends that were doing the half and full marathon, while others were volunteering. For pacers BD wants it to have a couple of people per time. This year I got the opportunity to run with Kim, another runner that came in on short notice to cover the 4:30 pace since the original person got hurt while training. Coincidentally Kim was a runner I met once before at the City of Oaks Marathon last November. I remember chatting with him for some time at the end of the event. 

After a few words from BD, the pacer’s coordinator with some advice and instructions we headed out to the main corral where the runners were gathering to get ready for the start of the event.

After the National Anthem, they had the Elite Runners and the 1st wave (7:00 AM) of runners ready to go. Plenty of space, plenty of distance, everyone was very excited to get started.

Mile 1-3:

Sugars were a tad on the high side but I knew that was going to happen since I did not bolus for the banana I ate a few minutes ago. These first miles were good steady miles. We took our time during the first mile to warm up just a tad slower than the target 10:30 needed. The next couple miles were on pace as the Marathon Full veered to the right to enter the trail. I was conscious about the form and checked the cadence and where I was landing on my feet. I had my running shoes that I was thinking to use for Umstead so I was making sure I was aware of how they were behaving during this long run.

Even with the great temperatures, I knew it was going to warm up to the upper 60s. At a couple of aid stations, I was just going to get water but decided to skip them and let the runners grab something early to stay hydrated. I was carrying my energy drink and fuel with me, so it was not going to be an issue. 

Miles 4-8:

Now we were the Full Marathon runners at the trail, I took some time to introduce myself and Kim as we were going to spend a decent amount of time together. I went to some of the approaches we were going to do, the target pace to meet 4:35, and the strategy at the water stations. We talked about their goals and their experience. We guided them when oncoming runners or cyclists were heading our way making sure we all stayed safe. Giving cues about how long the rolling uphills and downhills were coming ahead. To this point, we were all on target pace. But knowing that this is going to be a long event and that is early, Kim and I increased the pace a touch, a few seconds to be able to slow down at the water stations and give them a break in case they needed a bathroom break.

Great to see all the leaders and the other pacer groups that were ahead of us, especially reaching and after the turnaround. The whole group was encouraging each other and the passing runners. It was great to see that we were having a great conversational pace for most. Seeing them chatting about different topics was fantastic, I was running with a smile. We continued to pass the turn around always providing a good shout-out to the volunteers, officers making it safe for us to cross the intersections and all the runners passing by.

Miles 8-14:

At this point, we were feeling good, the weather was in the low 60s, we pressed the pace a bit on the downhill ad even with rolling hills, miles 10-14 can be a little bit challenging and could take some energy out of the runners. Crossing the halfway mark was uneventful, everyone was happy to see how time flew and they were past the midpoint. I was still just taking water at every aid station, at this time I already had a GU and the baby food pouch I was carrying.

Miles 15-19:

At this point in the event, we were holding the pace. But I let the group know that we needed to press the pace during the flat, just a couple of seconds faster pace, as when we hit the turn around we were encountering once again some rolling long hills and I want it to make sure we were in good shape tackling them. Just at the turnaround, we started to once again see a few more friends. Not much taking other than the “Looking strong”, “Nicely done”, “Hang in there” and the “go get it” We lost a couple running as we were getting ready to tackle the hardest miles of the Marathon.  

Miles 20-23:

I stop to use the porta-potty and had to speed up to catch up with Kim and the group. That took some of my energy. It was getting now closer to the upper 60s, not my super ideal temperature but we kept shaving the miles at a steady pace. I was really happy to see that we still had many of the original groups with us. 

My running shoes started to give me some problems. I was feeling some hot areas that I knew if I was using them at the Umstead 100, it was going to perhaps get worst. I was so glad I this the test with them today. Now I will most likely start with the Salomon running shoes and use these as a spare just in case.

I came across another 1st-time marathon runner she was walking a little bit, I slowed down and talked to her for a few meters. I was happy to see that she started running once again and held a very nice pace. Although she did not join our pacing group, I knew she was good to go to complete the event. 

Miles 24-26.2 (Finish): 

At the final stretch, we were doing good. I had stopped at an aid station to refill my water bottle with the energy drink they were offering. It took me about a mile to catch up with the group, I want it to take my time getting there. By them, the group was feeling fantastic and most of them pressed on the pace to finish strong. We encourage them to continue ahead, as we had a job to complete and that job was to finish a 4:35, not 4:25 or 4:30. There were others running counting on us to bring them safely to the finish line. At the second to last downhill, we picked up a couple of runners and hung with them during the last uphill. 

The last downhill towards the finish line is a nice long one, with the newly joined runners we picked up the pace just a tad and delivered them with seconds to spare. Most of the runners were happy, although in pain from the effort exertion were very proud of what they have accomplished. We spend some time with them talking and chatting about recovery and perhaps in which other event we will see each other again. It was a great event, it was a perfect day for a great run.

Once again the medal for this year was a very cool medal, with a train that spins at the center around the track. Now to rest and stretch. Next event on deck, couple weeks Umstead 100. I know, I know, I am insane, wish me luck!

Mar-22Tobacco Road MarathonNCFull4:34:39


Course: Great ample road right of the start, narrowing a bit at the entrance of the trail close to mile 3. With the exception of a couple of small hills during miles 1-2 and 25-26, the course is mostly flat with long rolling hills.

Venue: At the finish, excellent, plenty to drink, and a nice bag of goodies.

Expo: Expo was back after not having one last year. Not many vendors or booths, but it was nice to browse around and talk to other friends and runners.

Weather: Perfect weather with some cloud coverage at the start followed by clear skies, great 44º with just 100% humidity.

T1D: Sugars were good at the start, a tad on the high side. For the mid-event portion, they were stable.

Fueling: Pre-Race: 1 serving Hot Cereal and Latte. Half of the banana about 10 minutes before start.

Race: Water at the water stations. Gu and Larabar intake was about an hour and a half into the event then additional Tailwind and E-fuel that I carried.

Post: Protein shake and lots of water.

Learning Points:

  • Running at a slow pace is key for long training events.
  • Amazing to see other runners share their goals and being proud of their accomplishements.