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April 28 2013 / Emily

Race Report: Tar Heel 10 Miler

Oh hey there readers, it has been a while.  A while for posting, and a while for running seriously much at all.

Last weekend I drove the 90 minutes or so down to Chapel Hill for the Tar Heel 10 Miler.  I signed up for this race a few months ago at a discount due to the Uwharrie registration snafu (remember that?), thinking that it would be a very slow race since I should have just done a 44 mile ultra 2 weeks prior.  Well, as you know, the 44 miler did not happen due to travel costs, but the slow race wasn’t far from the truth.

The phrase of the day will be “ill-prepared.”  N0t the race, mind you, that was pulled off just fine.  My own illness and preparation were certainly suspect.

Due to marathon recovery, lack of desire, other obligations and responsibilities, and finally sickness, I really had not prepared well for this race.  But I mean, it’s just 10 miles, right?  Should be a piece of cake for a distance runner like me… nah.  Please note that not running distance of significance for a month, with just one run of 14 miles and another of 8, with distances otherwise around 5 miles, in the 6 weeks leading to the race (7 weeks before was the Umstead Marathon), kind of removes any former fitness from this distance girl.

No matter, I was going to take it easy.  Which is, of course, easy to say until I have a bib number pinned on and I’m on a race course.

So, back to the lack of preparation.  So the day before the race I signed all the paperwork and closed on my new house.  Hooray homeownership!  My mind was certainly on the house rather than the run.  I failed to consider that the race started at 7:30 am, so I didn’t get a ton of sleep when my goal was to leave the house by 5:30 am at the latest.  Of course I pushed it on how late I could leave, and when I got into Chapel Hill, there was quite a bit of race traffic.  The parking lots were full so I joined a train of cars slowly circling up a parking garage, which thankfully had plenty of spaces on the 4th level and above.  While I was waiting in traffic (stopped! safely!) I was texting with my friend Brooks who was also running the race.  We both thought for sure we wouldn’t make it in time.  But we did!

I booked it through packet pickup, which was faster since I knew my bib number already.  Got my race shirt (more on that later) and started moving toward the bag check area, with a quick pit stop along the way.  The race began and ended in UNC’s football stadium, and all the bathrooms were open, which made for no lines if you didn’t stop at the very first ones near the entrance gate.  Got way up into the stands for bag check (could have been in a better spot) and then realized I didn’t have much time before the race began.

runners circling the field

runners circling the field

You can see the runners snaked around the field, with the start/finish line around the 50 yard line on the far side.  It was rather odd to see the football field without any markings on it!  Instead of pushing through to get into the 9:00 or 9:30 pace areas, I went where the crowd was thinner and started back in the 10:30 pace section.  There were pace signs throughout the starting area, which was very helpful.

Due to starting in a slower pace group than I’d be running with, even if it was an easy day, I spent the first part of the race picking off runners ahead of me.  After circling the field, we ran out the tunnels, onto a loop out on some nearby streets, then back through the tunnel into the concourses and back out into Chapel Hill.  With all the opportunities for passing in the start, it was hard not to get into a race mindset for this event.  So there was lots of bobbing and weaving as I found my comfortable pace.  I still wasn’t pushing it at full race speed, but it wasn’t slow either.  More in the marathon-pace mindset, I’d say, though still faster than my marathons.

It was a great day to run, moderate temperatures and overcast skies.  The course was quite pretty.  Lots of rolling hills, and I knew the doozy would be coming near the end.  The Laurel Hill section of the race has its own split times, and they have separate prizes to see who can get up that hill fastest.  I don’t have a lot of memory of course details, but we ran through a lot of nice neighborhoods with lovely azaleas and beautiful homes both existing and under renovation.  Fair spectator support throughout.  Also ran down Franklin Street, which is the bar/party street for UNC students as far as I understand.  In college I always heard about the massive Halloween parties on Franklin Street, though I never made the drive for those festivities.

Laurel Hill was really not as bad as I expected.  If I had been going for time, it might have been different, as I did let myself walk for about 40 meters or so, but it was not a straight-up hill, rather a longer winding hill with some flat (flatter) bits between the hills.  Once up that hill, it was pretty close to the finish, within a mile I believe.  The route circled back to the stadium, and we finished where we started, from the opposite direction.  Nice to have a stadium finish, even if it is in a hated rival’s stadium.  Gotta say the chants of “TAR” “HEELS” on the course were cringe-worthy but to be expected in a race on their campus and in their town.  I wore a Wake Forest shirt and (surprisingly, considering the state of Wake Forest athletics) didn’t get mocked, and even got a couple Wake cheers near the end.

Speaking of rivalries and shirts, I really liked the Party Crasher option that the race had.  At registration, I had the option to select which Atlantic Coast Conference school I was a fan of, and the top three non-UNC schools received custom bibs and shirts in their school colors.  I was expecting the custom bib, but didn’t know about the shirts.  Awesome.


I really liked that, as I was not left with too much UNC Tar Heel junk.  Great idea, race director!  As expected, the top two schools were NC State and Duke, with Wake Forest in a distant but solid third.  For those not from the area, UNC, NC State and Duke are all located within about 25 miles of each other.  Wake Forest used to be located right in that area as well, but moved west to Winston-Salem in 1956.  I could see this race as something I’d repeat, and having this Party Crasher option is a significant part of that.

After the race, I found and briefly chatted with my friend Darrel (who I ran with during part of Umstead) who had a great performance.  Always nice to see a friendly face!  I made my way back to the bag check and got my things.  I headed into the concourse and was about to text Brooks to try and locate him, when he happened to wander by.  Serendipity.  We headed out of the stadium to find the food and drink.

best finish line find ever

best finish line find ever

Wow that bin of gummy bears was a sight for sore eyes!  I grabbed a pack of those, a banana and some water.  We hung out for a while, enjoying the sunshine and chatting about the race course, and mostly killing time until we thought the parking garage traffic might have thinned out.

Demon Deacons in Chapel Hill

Demon Deacons in Chapel Hill

All in all, it was a good race.  Well organized and planned out.  This was less than a week after the chaos in Boston (I’ve declined to post my reactions to this as many others have more eloquent things to say than I), and I felt very safe.  I haven’t done a lot of 10 mile races, so the thought of a PR is a bit lacking in significance, but I really wasn’t too far off.  Maybe I’ll come back next year for a repeat and hope to be better prepared!

The medal was pretty nice, though the darn Tar Heel logo is a bit of a negative for this Deacon fan.  😉



I like how the foot is translucent.  I don’t have many other medals I can think of with that feature, aside from one all-glass medal.

My final finish time was 1:31:07, panning out to a 9:07/mile pace.  I can certainly do better, but I’m pretty satisfied with it, all things considered.



Leave a Comment
  1. Paul Starling / Apr 28 2013 9:18 PM

    As always, another well written race article. Keep it up. Hope to run with you again sometime! I don’t know if I could keep that ugly foot medal they gave out!

    • Emily / Apr 29 2013 12:25 PM

      thanks! I am sure we will see each other on the trails again sometime. And yes, the medal is not the prettiest unless you’re a UNC fan.

  2. Meredith / Apr 28 2013 11:31 PM

    Goldbaren!!!!! Best post-race snack ever! Very cool.

    That party crasher aspect is great as well – very clever.

    • Emily / Apr 29 2013 12:25 PM

      hehe, I kept meaning to send you that goldbaren picture. glad you saw the post since I never got around to it. Agree on the clever choice for the Party Crasher feature.

  3. laurenquartz / Apr 29 2013 8:35 AM

    Great job, Em! Love reading your posts. How awesome that they happened to have your favorite snack at the finish line! And I love that they made custom T-shirts for rival schools. Seriously great idea to keep folks coming back. Glad to see your happy post despite your lack of training beforehand. Hope the bit of a rest has done you good!

    • Emily / Apr 29 2013 12:28 PM

      thanks Lauren! I was so excited to see the gummy bears, Brooks did not understand why I cared enough to go back and take a photo. So far I feel like the rest has just taken my fitness all away, but hopefully once I get going again, I’ll find a reason besides enjoying the laziness, to appreciate the time I took off.

  4. Gene / May 6 2013 4:29 PM

    Great post Emily! Nice job on the 10 miler with limited training!

  5. David H / May 6 2013 10:45 PM

    Good to see you back in the race recap business! You ran with a really good time and your break must have given your legs time to recovery from all the miles of the past year. I like that pick a school option as well. Good twist. Oh, and by the way, if you are looking for a flat and fast 5k this weekend, I’m on committee with ROCC the Samaritan Ministries 5K in Clemmons. Over 2 miles on Lewisville-Clemmons Road. If not, will see you this summer I’m sure.

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