One of Charlotte’s most popular road races of the year, the Southpark Turkey Trot has people running off the calories before they even sit down to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday I received an email from the race directors stating that the race was full, with 6,000 registered runners. Not all of that was for the 8k; there was a separate 5k race, a 1 mile fun run, and a 26.2 yard Tot Trot. Still, the main event was the 8k, and when it was over a total of 3,742 runners crossed the finish line in the 8k alone.
It was a big race for me personally since it was the fourth of nine races in the Running Journal Grand Prix series. I’m running most of those Grand Prix races this year in an attempt to gain points in the 55-59 age group. Today I finished 3rd of 93 runners in my age group (33:28 chip time – 6:45 pace) so I’m happy about that. The top 8 runners in each race receive Grand Prix points, and after the first four races I’ve finished in 2nd place twice and 3rd place twice.
For Linda and I, it was our first Southpark Turkey Trot and with so many runners expected we weren’t sure how far away we would have to park. It was a pleasant surprise when we arrived about 7:30 that there was plenty of parking still available within 100 yards of the starting line. I’m sure as time passed people had to park farther and farther away but there’s plenty of parking available in the Southpark Mall parking lot.
About 20 minutes before race time I left Linda in the way-too-long porta-pottie line (there were a total of about 16 — not nearly enough for 6,000 runners plus spectators). Just down Morrison Boulevard I met up with Bob Nelson, who has become a good friend at the races despite the fact that he beats me every time. We jogged up to near the starting line, and maybe 10 minutes before the race the runners started lining up (we had to wait for the completion of the 1-mile fun run). We both wedged our way in, maybe 4 or 5 rows behind the elite runners. As we waited for the starting gun, more and more runners who didn’t want to be stuck in back of slower runners kept piling in until it felt like we were standing in a solid mass of people. There was no way to move in any direction and I just hoped I wouldn’t be crushed in the stampede at the start of the race.
As the race began, things were actually very orderly and it seemed like everybody was just glad to be free from the solid mass of humanity. I lost sight of Bob right from the git-go and tried to settle in to a decent pace for me. At the first mile marker I was at 6:35, which is about right along the lines of what works for me lately. My second mile was my fastest, then I slowed down about 50 seconds or so for the mile 3, but picked it up some for the last 2 miles. Here are my mile splits:
Mile 1 – 6:35
Mile 2 – 6:19
Mile 3 – 7:07
Mile 4 – 6:58
Mile 5 – 6:27
Around the 4-mile mark I heard somebody in back of me say, “Hey Bob!” There are a lot of guys named Bob but I kind of wondered if Bob Nelson, who is always in front of me, could have somehow ended up in back of me for 4 miles. Sure enough, Bob Nelson pulled up next to me and I said something like, “Where’d you come from? I thought you were out of sight in front of me.” There was a water stop just ahead and he pulled up to get water. I kept on running. He’s one of those guys who can get a drink of water and not slow down; I’m one of those guys who gets the water and spills it all over himself. So, I thought, I’ll gain an extra second of two on Bob, but just as I expected, he was on a mission, and with maybe a quarter mile to go he pulled his hydrated self past me and I was down for the count. He ended up 2nd in our age group and I was 3rd, a few seconds behind, and we were both beat by about a minute by a fast runner from Winston-Salem, Charles Morrow.
We had been warned in advance via Theoden’s blog that the post-race refreshments were being kept to a minimum because people wanted to get home and be with their families, so no surprise there.
The half man/half turkey logo, which apparently got quite a few complaints (I kind of like it myself) was not on the T-shirt this year. The T-shirt was nicely designed and was a long-sleeved cotton shirt.
At first I was just a little disappointed in the age group awards. First the awards were given for the One-Mile Fun Run. They received possibly the nicest trophies I’ve ever seen at a race. Okay. So I’m thinking, wow… the awards must be spectacular the the 8k, which is the main race. Nope. Age group winners for the 8k instead received a beveled glass crescent inscribed with the race info. In retrospect, even though I didn’t like them as well they were probably more expensive than the trophies and possibly would have been preferred by other age group winners. The top winners (overall and masters) received really cool-looking wooden turkey sculptures (you had to see them to appreciate them).
9 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.) 8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) 6 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10) 4 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10) 7 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No) 5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No) 6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No) 7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No) 7 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 7 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 7 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups) 0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided) 4 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities 0-10 Other