Whether you're a fall marathoner who's working one last time on race-day rituals and pacing ... or a newer runner who's been building up to this distance all year ... the LungStrong 15K comes at the perfect time for a lot of athletes.
And that's not all Saturday's event has going for it: In addition to the unique distance, it offers one of the more scenic courses around. The 15K is the last race in Run For Your Life's 2009 Grand Prix Series, so prize money and bragging rights are at stake for some of the area's best runners. There's a 5K option, run on a mostly-different course. Oh, and did we mention the free beer at the finish line?
Run For Your Life's Ashleigh Lawrence, event manager for the LungStrong 15K/5K, filled me in late yesterday afternoon on the details of the Lake Norman-area course, her special connection to the cause, and why we're getting short-sleeve instead of long-sleeve shirts this year.
Q. It seems like there are 5 million 5Ks in Charlotte. But this is the area's only 15K for sure. In fact, other than the Biltmore 15K held each May, I can't think of another one in the region!
There used to be one in Raleigh, too, but I don’t think they do it anymore. It is definitely a unique distance! I don’t think it’s a distance too many people travel for, or at least not as many people as you would see travel for a half marathon or a full marathon. It is rare to see a 15K, and honestly, we are really happy to be able to bring one to the Charlotte/Cornelius running community and to the GPx series.
Q. Why this distance, and why now?
It is actually double fold. To be true to the Grand Prix Series and what it is meant to represent, we throw in a couple of longer-distance races to shake things up. The GPx series is meant to challenge and highlight the best runners in Charlotte, not just the best 5Kers. So the 15K can be challenging for some of the current leaders, as well as an advantage for those that may not excel at the shorter distances, but can come through on the longer distance. The second reason behind the 15K, and even the Hit the Brixx 10K, is that they get runners geared up for the Thunder Road Marathon in December. It is not coincidental that we host 5Ks starting in March, then bump it up to a 10K in September, 15K in October, and then there is the Dowd Y Run (a half marathon) the first week in November. In essence, runners have the opportunity to train for the Amica Insurance Half Marathon or the Thunder Road Marathon through the Grand Prix Series. So to all you runners that are participating in the 15K this week, keep Thunder Road in mind!
Q. I heard you previewed the 15K course last week and were pretty impressed with the scenery. We're gonna be running through some nice neighborhoods, huh?
Let’s just say if you like to enjoy the residential scenery as you run, don’t expect to PR at this event! You’ll be too busy enjoying the houses!! You don’t run by any commercialized buildings, with the exception of the start and finish. There is a golf course along Jetton Road, we’re talking stretches of green grass. Then the homes along the course are, in my opinion, gorgeous! Everyone has seen a large home before, but with Lake Norman in the background, docks full of boats and spacious yards, it’s definitely different scenery than what you may be used to seeing in Charlotte.
Q. And we're running through Jetton Park, too?
Yes, for about 1.25 miles towards the beginning of the 15K. It’s a beautiful park to run through. Overall, this race is definitely our most scenic course when it comes to nature. Even with Jetton Park being a small part of the course, in general it is very green, and the runner really gets to enjoy some nice views.
Q. How challenging is the 15K course in terms of twists, turns, ups, downs?
This course, like many others in Charlotte, consists of rolling hills. There aren’t any major hills along the way, but with it being longer in distance, even the rolling hills can be challenging. I will say, however, that the first part of the race is pretty easy in terms of turns – aside from a couple at the very beginning and then the loop through Jetton Park, the runner is going straight up Jetton Road. But then it’s the middle of the race that gets tricky with turns – there’s about 11 of them in a roughly two-mile stretch. After those turns, it gets a bit windy on Jetton Road, but after clearing Harbor Light Boulevard, it’s smooth sailing in terms of turns and winds going back down Jetton Road. Rest assured we will have course monitors out managing these intersections.
Q. OK, tell me about the 5K course.
The 5K course is actually different from last year. Due to the growth of the Cornelius area and Catawba Avenue, we decided, along with the Cornelius Police Department, to bring back our course from two years ago.
Q. Will 5Kers and 15Kers cross paths at all along their respective courses?
The first few turns the 5K runners and 15K runners will be side by side, even though the 5K runners start five minutes after the 15K runners. When they hit Jetton Road, they will actually “split” up in that the 5K runners will be restricted to the westbound curb lanes and the 15K runners will be restricted to the eastbound curb lanes – keep your eyes peeled on Charles Town Road for signage to help ensure you turn into the correct lane on Jetton. The runners will be running “side-by-side” on Jetton until the 5K runners break off up Meta Road. Later, on the return up Jetton Road, the 15K runners will be moved to the westbound curb lane to share with the 5K runners, but the majority of 5K runners will be finished by the time the majority of the 15K runners are coming back on Jetton Road.
Q. I understand the LungStrong cause has special meaning to you. Can you talk about that personal connection, and also how the fundraising done for this event will be used by the foundation?
The reason this race has a very special meaning to me is because I lost my mother to lung cancer four years ago. My mom was diagnosed in Stage IV, and despite a prognosis of 16 months, she died only 14 months after her diagnosis. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and it accounts for about 29 percent of all cancer deaths. The reason it kills so many is because it is hard to detect the disease at an early stage. It’s sad because lung cancer actually kills 84 percent of newly diagnosed patients within five years. This is exactly why the work of the LUNGevity Foundation is so important – their mission is to save lives and to ease the burden of lung cancer on patients and their loved ones. Eddie David, race director and founder of the Lung Strong event, selected the LUNGevity Foundation as the beneficiary because they fund the most promising, and innovative medical research into diagnosis, treatment, and cure of lung cancer and they provide emotional support for lung cancer survivors and their loved ones. [For more information on the LUNGevity Foundation, click here.] I truly wish for avid support of all causes at all of our races, but I have to admit, it is really cool that through my job I’m able to give back to something that means so much to me.
Q. Last year, the race shirt was long-sleeved, but I hear you've gone with short sleeves this year.
This is true. Long story short, Eddie is passionate about both running and about fighting lung cancer. Eddie, the race committee members and our team have worked very hard at promoting and growing this event – it started with only 686 runners its first year in 2007, but then grew to a whopping 1,396 runners last year – and when we all got together and discussed the shirts, we realized that the event would get more exposure and promotion through the short-sleeve shirts. People on average get more wear throughout the year from a short-sleeve shirt than a long-sleeve. So as much as we love giving a long-sleeve out at an October race, the true goal behind this race is to raise funds to support lung cancer research, and although it seems like a small gesture, switching to short-sleeve shirts can help do that.
Q. Free beer afterward?
Yes! Michelob Ultra will be there. I don’t know for sure which brews they will have, but typically they have brought Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Amber – they may spice it up this time!
Q. What else to eat and drink?
There will also be PowerAde, Diamond Springs Water, coffee from the Comfort Inn, wine tasting from the Burgundy Moon Spa & Winery. We’re bringing out Snickers Marathon bars – many of you saw them at Hit the Brixx. There will also be bananas and oranges courtesy of BJ’s. You’ll have your options!
Q. Anything else you want to add about the race, the amenities, or other activities scheduled for the morning?
Eddie and his team have booked a live band to come out and entertain the runners and their family and friends – a treat you don’t always get to see at a race! We’ll also have an inflatable for smaller kids to keep busy on during the race. Hopefully it won’t be as cold as last year, though!
Registration is $25 for the 15K and $20 for the 5K ($35/$30 on race day). Start times are 7:45 and 7:50 a.m, respectively. For more information or to register, click here.