Any parent who’s raised a teen will tell you that growth sometimes comes in sudden, unpredictable, and uneven increments. Often, these growth spurts will challenge a maturing individual with periods of clumsiness or even discomfort.
A steady growth rate is certainly easier to deal with for everyone involved.
Such has been the philosophy among organizers of Endurance Magazine’s eighth annual Tar Heel 10-Miler and 4-Miler, which will unleash thousands of runners upon the streets of the UNC campus and downtown Chapel Hill on Saturday, April 18.
The 10-mile race doubles as that distance’s N.C. championship of USA Track & Field.
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“It’s really turning out to be what we wanted it to be,” Endurance director of events Thys Wind said. “Every year it seems to get better and better. We get more bells and whistles to make it more fun. We’re happy about the growth, and we feel like it’s still growing.
“We’re still heading toward our bigger goal, which is 10,000 runners by our 10th annual running in two years.”
Wind said organizers expected “anywhere from between 6,200-6,400 runners ... several hundred more than last year. That’s great, and we’re continuing to see this event grow. As of last year, it’s one of the largest road races in the state, with runners representing at least 15 different states.”
Billed as “North Carolina’s premier running experience,” the Tar Heel 10-Miler presented by CEP Compression Sportswear and the Fleet Feet Four-Mile run are designed to celebrate and showcase downtown Chapel Hill, the UNC campus, and the surrounding communities.
Endurance publisher / founder Steve Lackey said that relationships have been the foundation upon which responsible growth has been facilitated.
“Every year, we’ve gotten closer and closer with the town, the police, the university, and area residents,” Lackey said. “I believe we’ve been responsibly growing the event within the town of Chapel Hill, and we’ve been working on making it a positive experience for everyone.”
Growth at UNC itself is testing the race’s adaptability this year, as field work in Kenan Stadium is forcing a relocation of the finish line to Stadium Drive, Wind said, “But we’re still expecting it to be a pretty spectacular finish-line experience.”
“We’ve worked hard with (UNC Athletics’ facilities director) Kevin Robinson and the Kenan Stadium facility there,” Lackey added, “but we’ve finished on Stadium Drive before, and it was one of our best years.”
All of the post-race activities will still be Kenan Stadium’s concourse, Wind explained. “We just don’t have access to the field itself. We’ve got a big sponsor village and a recovery zone that we’ll set up on that paved-bricked area behind the Blue Zone (at the east end).”
The event will still offer runners’ favorite features like the race-within-a-race for avid uphill runners.
Race registration also featured the “Crash the Party” challenge, which embraced the rivalry between neighboring campuses through a pre-race registration drive, which ended in late March. Duke (381 runners) narrowly defeated N.C. State (328 runners) to take the crown.
Organizers were particularly proud of the new Corporate Challenge feature new to this year’s race.
“One big thing this year is that we have a corporate challenge element sponsored by United Healthcare,” Wind said. This has been very well received.
“We’ve got about 1,000 runners representing all-sized companies from the local area – really big-name companies like Cisco, IBM, Quintiles – and we’re using this to determine, in a fun way, the fittest and the fastest companies in the region. We’ll have trophies, announcements in Endurance Magazine, and we think it’s a nice way to promote these companies and their wellness programs.”
With several weeks remaining in the race to be the “fittest” company UNC Health Care is maintaining a narrow lead.
Minimal impact, max exposure
Organizers have worked closely with the town and campus to minimize the impact on area roads while showcasing Chapel Hill’s beautiful neighborhoods and campus.
With NC-DOT approval, Raleigh Road will be closed to traffic between Country Club Road and U.S. 15-501 from 7 to 10 a.m. Motorists should avoid that area and heed signage indicating detours.
Other roads along the course will be closed and re-opened on a rolling basis as the runners pass through the various areas on the course.
On race day, Kenan Stadium will open as early as 5:30 a.m. with bathrooms available. Runners should arrive and park by 6:30 a.m. or risk missing the 10- and 4-mile race starts on South Road near UNC’s Bell Tower.
The 4-Mile run will begin at 7:20 a.m., and the 10-Miler is set to begin 10 minutes later. All post-race activities in Kenan Stadium will conclude by 11 a.m.
The majority of available parking will be in downtown Chapel Hill, in parking decks UNC’s Manning Drive, or in lots near the Dean E. Smith Center.
Wind and Lackey promised that the goal to reach 10,000 runners by the event’s 10th anniversary in 2017 would be approached as responsibly as has been done over the first eight years.
“Parking and road usage would be important issues,” Lackey said. “One of the biggest assets we have is Deborah Hawkins and her team (at UNC Transportation and Parking). As it stands, we’re in good shape.”
With the Tar Heel 10-miler approaching the heights of its adolescence (in road race years), proud “parents” like Lackey and Wind seem poised to handle the growth spurts with a little help from friends they’ve cultivated.