The 22nd annual Charlotte Southpark Turkey Trot had 4300 finishers in the 8k race on Thanksgiving day. Add to that those involved with the 5k walk, the 1-mile fun run, and the tot trot, and this is easily one of Charlotte’s largest road racing events of the year, second only to Thunder Road.
This is the 4th race in the 10-race season of the Running Journal Grand Prix series and is one of the three RJ Grand Prix races in North Carolina, with the others being the Charlotte RaceFest 10k and the Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon. The other races in the series are in South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, so it’s nice to try to pick up some points without leaving the area. Linda and I enjoyed traveling around to most of the different races last year and are planning to run most of the remaining races this year as well. Last year I felt great, never had even a hint of an injury, and knew no fear. This year is a different story. I’m generally not running as well, probably due to a variety of factors. I’m older, of course, but that probably has very little to do with it. I suspect it has more to do with gaining back 5 pounds that I had originally shed during my serious weight loss regimen and lack of serious training. Whatever the reason, I was glad I didn’t travel far in my quest for Grand Prix points since I finished 6th in my age group and only the top 8 runners in each age group score points — 100 for 1st place down to 10 for 8th place — so I came away with a somewhat meager 30 points.
When I turned on the weather report at around 6 a.m. I thought they said it would be cloudy but the rain would hold off until the afternoon, although when I retrieved the newspapers from the driveway just before we left I felt a couple drops of rain. I went back in the house and looked at the hour-by-hour forecast and it was calling for only a 10% chance of rain. Never quite sure what that means (Will it rain 10% of the time, or in 10% of the area, or 10% as hard as a real downpour?), I decided to take along the running rain jacket I won at RaceFest last year just in case. As it turns out, it was raining 100% all the way to Charlotte and a light rain was still falling when we arrived. I have an aversion to being cold or wet, so I decided to run the race wearing the jacket over what most runners would already consider too much clothing (an Under Armour Cold Gear shirt under another short-sleeved shirt). Of course I was too hot after the first couple miles and I ended up carrying the jacket the last three miles of the race. You’d think I would have figured that out by my 111th race. Maybe next time.
This is generally a well organized race with plenty of volunteers, and with the throngs of runners that show up each year it’s definitely a popular event. Bojangles is one of the sponsors, and I like being able to go into the huge Bojangles restaurant both before and after the race to get coffee and a biscuit or whatever (Note to self: that Bo-Berry Biscuit you ate at 8:30 a.m. probably didn’t make you any faster.). It’s always nice to see our Charlotte running friends, but realistically, we see a lot more people we know in the smaller races in Charlotte that don’t attract nearly as many people who run just one race a year.
There are two major things I dislike about this race though…
1). The Porta-Potty situation is crappy (no pun intended). With thousands of people vying for a seat on the potty they need to be plentiful, but that’s not the case. I’m not sure how many there were, but there weren’t nearly enough because the lines were way too long. I stood in line for about 10 minutes but was still nowhere near the bathroom door when I decided to cut my losses and hold it until after the race. To put it in perspective, I ran the New York City Marathon three weeks ago, a race roughly ten times the size, and there were virtually no Porta-Potty lines at all. I’m not saying that the Turkey Trot needs as many Porta-Potties as the NYC Marathon, but they do need enough to accommodate at least 5,000 people adequately, and that’s a lot more than they had.
2). This race has the most crowded starting line of any race I have ever seen. What’s up with that? Last year I was near the front of the start and was packed in so tightly that I could have died and my body would have remained standing until the starting gun went off. This year after leaving the Porta-Potty line about ten minutes before the race began I finally nudged my way into the crowd maybe 20-30 yards in back of the starting line, where it was a little less crowded. I don’t mind so much being back a little if I’m late to the starting line (which I was) but it was plain to see that half the people in front of me were a variety of slow runners, walkers, little kids, and what have you, that I had to spend the first half mile or so dodging and working my way around. I love to see everybody running, young and old, big and small, fast and slow, but most races with thousands of runners use some type of a corral system that allows the faster runners to start up front, followed by people of similar speeds. After 22 years you would think they would do that here; instead, it’s a free-for-all when the race starts, making it one of the most exasperating racing starts that I’ve been a part of.
But I digress. After all, it’s Thanksgiving, and I guess I should just be happy and thankful that I’m able to run. Sorry if any of that sounded cranky. Happy Thanksgiving!
9 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.) 6 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) 6 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10) 5 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10) 6 – 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) 5 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 8 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average) 6 – 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) 3 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities 0 – 0-10 Other