Planning an event that has something for everyone is tough, just ask anyone who’s thrown a party of any kind. There’s a lot to think about from planning, food, and drinks, ordering supplies, and booking entertainment, and getting people to RSVP.
Putting on the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon weekend is a lot like throwing a party. Toss in the logistics to manage thousands of runners, volunteers, and spectators, a 13.1 or 26.2 mile route that has to be smoothly connected, street closures, police protection, weather, safety, and traffic… it becomes a massive undertaking.
Tim Rhodes, the director of the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon (previously called Thunder Road Marathon) since its inception in 2005, can certainly attest to that. He is wholly invested in making Charlotte’s only full marathon and the events that go along with it — including a 5K, a half marathon and relay, and a marathon relay– better for everyone. That’s why he took out all of the hills in this year’s course and made it pancake flat.
That last part isn’t really going to happen.
“It’s called uptown for a reason; it’s the highest point in Charlotte. If we want to finish up there, we’ve got to get there and that involves some hills,” he says. Though by going back to the drawing board this year, Rhodes and his team, “wanted to be more responsive to comments about the hills and try to reduce the impact of them along the course as best we could.”
What else has changed in the courses in 2021? The half will have runners spend more time in neighborhoods than on busy streets. “That’s much better,” added Rhodes. “You can’t beat running under tree-lined streets with neighbors who come out of their homes to cheer on runners.”
The half marathon, which shares a route with the full marathon for the first 12.8-ish miles, also goes through Latta Park in Dilworth, one of the most active, historical and beautiful neighborhoods around. And this year, the half marathon also includes a relay.
“We want to keep it all interesting and fun for runners,” says Rhodes, who has been through a few variations of the course over the years. “We usually have about double the amount of runners doing the half than we do the full. When you’re running with a pack of three and two of them split off to finish the half and there’s one still going for the full… we want that runner to have a great experience in that back half of the course.”
Two of the biggest changes between miles 13.1 and 26.2 are the addition of Little Sugar Creek Greenway and portions of out-and-back. Usually, runners are pretty spread out at mile, say, 18. It’s tougher to run if you’re all alone on a stretch of street when you’re tired. Rhodes took that into consideration when tweaking the route at that point. “Out-and-backs are just more fun. You get to see other runners and have some interaction, maybe give some encouragement.”
Out-and-backs also allow for a reduction of resources, something about which Rhodes is very cognizant. “We have a great partnership with CMPD and Park and Recreation and we want to be mindful of the effect we have on our police force.”
The full course keeps the lively neighborhoods of NoDa and Plaza Midwood, where people have been known to offer runners more than just Gatorade.
Both races still finish uptown, among the beautiful buildings that make up our skyline, That scene is worth the climb to get there.
Rhodes is most looking forward to seeing the people that make this event so great: he wants to say “good job” and congratulate you and celebrate your accomplishment. He wants to see your smile. He wants to hear your feedback on how he and his team can help make the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon events more inclusive, more fun for everyone.
This party is happening on November 13 and you are cordially invited. Registration and more info are available at runcharlotte.com Note: Want to see the course in person before then? Take part in one or both of these preview runs!
10/23/21: The Run Far Program will host a preview of the first half.
10/30: The Run Far Program will host a preview of the second half of the marathon course.
For both (10/23 and 10/30) we will meet at BB&T baseball field on S Mint. at 6:15 am. Both will have pace groups and 10-mile options. You do not need to be a member of Run Far to participate.