Upcoming area distance races you don’t want to miss

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Cover photo by Gunnar Geir Petursson.

Summer is over and it’s time to plan your fall. There’s a lot of hullaballoo in the first part of the year during the cold winter months about diet and exercise to get yourself ready for beach and swimsuit season.

I get why that time of the year gets the fitness hype, what with the amount of skin everyone expects to show, but I would argue that this time of year, with fall right around the corner, is just as important in terms of fitness planning. Here’s why:

(1) You just spent every weekend for the past 8 weeks on boat drinking 13 Bud Lights a day.

(2) Your life has had zero routine since Memorial Day. It’s been an endless stream of weddings, vacations, and Queen City Q BBQ nachos at Knights games.

(3) Cuffing season is right around the corner. That’s important after your inevitably disappointing “freedom season” over the summer.

For all of these reasons, you need a fitness goal for the fall.

If you can motivate yourself to accomplish something like “do yoga/crossfit five times a week until Thanksgiving” then more power to you, but that’s not enough for me to put down the Hop Drop ‘n’ Roll and lace up my Nikes.

I need a big event on the horizon to train for. And I need it to be so daunting that the prospect of not being prepared for it haunts my dreams.

I find that for me the proper amount of dream-haunting comes in the form of a 10k or half marathon.

10ks are perfect if you haven’t done a “big” race before. Six miles is enough of a run that you have to push yourself and feel like an athlete, but not to the point where you have to start cursing yourself out for being a weakling as a means of motivation.

As for half marathons, I feel like 13 miles is just about the longest a human should be running. It’s “short” enough that training for it can remain just a hobby, rather than a complete lifestyle change, but long enough that it’s something you really need to put in time for.

Plus, most half marathon training plans are for 12 weeks. If you started today, you’ll be in peak shape right around the first of November, which happens to be the ideal time to run one of these bad boys.

But which race should you choose?

Fortunately, Charlotte has a ton of really great options, both in town and in areas just a day trip away, and at a variety of distances.

I personally enjoy races that are in places I’m mostly unfamiliar with, because having new things to look at is a great distraction from the fact that I’m miserable and have no cartilage left in my knee.

After a quick trip around active.com, I saw what was out there and drew on my own personal experience to give you a list of some upcoming area races to sign up for:

OrthoCarolina 10k Classic Food Truck & Beer Fest

OrthoCarolina-10k-Race

August 22, 2015 | Charlotte, NC

I haven’t participated in this before, but it starts a few blocks from my house and the course winds through some of the coolest areas of Plaza Midwood and Elizabeth. I’m going to have to come up with some pretty flimsy excuses if I don’t run it this year.

Plus, the race has “Food Truck and Beer Fest” right there in the name. I’m pretty sure that’s the light at the end of the tunnel you need to convince yourself to run.

If you are starting out at zero today, maybe you can’t get into shape to run six miles in time for this, but they have shorter distances too if you’re really just in it for the beer.

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Wild Vine Trail Race Half Marathon 

Wild-Vine-Race

September 26, 2015 | Charlotte, NC (US National Whitewater Center)

In my experience, every running event at the USNWC is awesome. The terrain is very challenging and they do a great job of putting on events.

I haven’t run this particular event, but it’s part of the Uncorked Wine Tasting Festival, which is a great way to reward yourself after missing your race goal but rationalizing your failure by blaming the weather conditions and your shoes.

The half marathon here is probably not a race for a first-timer, since running on trails presents a whole different set of challenges, but if you’ve mixed it up for 13.1 miles before, I highly recommend running on the USNWC trails.

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Volition America Half Marathon and 5k

volition-america-half-marathon

October 3, 2015 | Mooresville, NC

Advertised as a flat course, this might be a good one to try if you’re new to half marathons. The hills during Thunder Road always seem to come up at the worst possible times, so a flat course can really make a difference in your experience.

This race is only two months away though, so you’ll have to kick training into high gear if you aren’t already running 10-15 miles per week.

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Outer Banks Southern Fried Half Marathon

OBX-half-marathon

November 8, 2015 | Nags Head, NC

My wife and I ran this a few years ago and it’s a nice, pretty flat course except for the bridge at the end. You don’t see much of the beach as the course runs mostly through the inland area, but it’s nice to make a weekend of it at the beach during the offseason. I can remember locals lining the course and yelling things like “thanks for coming here and stimulating our economy!” Ha.

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Novant Health Thunder Road Half Marathon

thunder-road-half-marathon

November 14, 2015 | Charlotte, NC

This is the granddaddy of Charlotte running. My wife has run this twice and I’ve done it once and it’s a pretty challenging course. You’ve got time to put in the training and be ready since it’s not until the middle of November, but be sure your training includes running some of the hills that are part of the course. They changed the route around a few years ago so it begins and ends in Uptown, which I think was a really smart move.

Because the course is so sprawling, you’re probably going to be restricted in what you can do on the morning of November 14th anyway, so why not be one of the runners participating, rather than the person angrily scowling at the nice police officers directing traffic because you thought you could go on a bagel run to Poppy’s and be home in 10 minutes.

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I live in Elizabeth, work in Uptown, and spend my time loving where Charlotte's been and thinking about its future.