Why run 26.2 miles? Why pay money for the privilege of the agony that accumulates over that distance, especially at the speeds run by some of the event’s elite?
For the more than 4,000 participants in Cary’s eighth annual Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon and Feetures Half-Marathon Sunday, the answers are varied.
There’s Brian Germano, a 36-year-old Cary resident who hopes the race’s gently undulating course will propel him toward a qualifying time for the world-famous Boston Marathon – about 3 hours, 5 minutes – which he’s dreamed of running since he was in middle school. He barely missed the cutoff the first time he ran Tobacco Road in 2015. That was a difficult experience, he said, yet he’s back this year for his 10th marathon.
“I ran the New York Marathon and caught the bug,” Germano said of his first race at the distance in 2011. “They say you run one or you run many, and I’m running many.”
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There’s James Leitner, a water conservation specialist living in West Virginia. He’s running a marathon a month while carrying a 45-pound water jug on his head, the amount of water needed per person per day in developing countries. It’s his way of raising awareness of water insecurity in Tanzania; this is his 11th such marathon. He’ll take almost twice as long as Brian to complete the course, he said.
“I don’t notice the jug until the 10-mile mark,” said Leitner, 23. “It’ll be on the head for three-quarters of the race, but after that I’ll be dead-arm carrying it as far as I can.”
And there’s a wide array of charity causes associated with the race, whose work might give casual runners the extra nudge they need to sign up.
Last year, Tobacco Road Marathon runners raised more than $600,000 for a variety of causes associated with the race, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project and the American Red Cross.
This year’s slate of beneficiaries features Hope for the Warriors, a nonprofit that provides various forms of support to combat veterans and their families, and the Triangle Rails to Trails Conservancy, the organization that spearheaded the American Tobacco Trail’s construction. Mark Dill, a spokesman for the race, said the marathon expects to raise $750,000 this year.
Here’s what you need to know about Sunday’s event.
Registration: There are no more spots for the half-marathon, which maxed out at 2,500 people, but the full marathon had about 550 spots remaining as of Friday, March 10. Go to http://bit.ly/2nnXfsm to register.
The route: Twenty-one miles of the marathon and 8 miles of the half-marathon are on the American Tobacco Trail between Cary and Durham. Both events are USA Track & Field certified. The first two miles and the last two of both races are on paved roadways, including Green Level Church Road and Morrisville Parkway. The course is known for being flat and fast with a downhill finish. Up to 10 percent of runners qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Parking: Spectators and runners who have not yet secured a parking spot at Thomas Brooks Park should park at the NetApp office building at 7301 Kit Creek Road and plan to take a shuttle bus to the event. Shuttles will leave from the corner of Kit Creek Road and Louis Stephens Drive. After 7:15 a.m., a permit isn’t required to enter the USA Baseball or Thomas Brooks Park lot.
Traffic alert: While most of the event is on the trail, motorists should be cautious when traveling around Thomas Brooks Park, the American Tobacco Trail, Morrisville Parkway and Green Level Church Road. Police will be directing traffic. The course closes at 2 p.m.
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan