Monday, 20 October 2014

Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon 2014

 Lookie what arrived today. All credit due to the race director for sorting everything out. 

The race was in Cherokee, NC on Saturday Oct 18th and was called the Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon. I signed up for this race for the awesome swag, good scenery and nice medal. It cost $45 when I signed up so I thought it was also a really great price for a half marathon.
This race was a very mixed bag for me. I was doing it as a marathon training run but also running with a friend. It ended up being an awful race for my friend and I paced her to the finish but running way slower than I wanted...slow even for long run pace! 
Thats gotta earn me some good karma with the running gods come marathon time, right? I had a total of 19 miles to run on the day so I ran 3 miles before (on a track where the race ended) and 3 miles after (around and around a big parking lot). 

The race started in the middle of Cherokee and wound its way around the town. It was a fairly flat course, considering it was in the mountains, with one absolutely huge hill at mile 6. 
The course was well marked with loads of volunteers, especially the first half. Parts of the second half were on busy roads so not so many people and some sidewalk running. Considering the time of year (fall colors = tourists everywhere) they did a great job closing as many roads as they did.

The aid stations were spaced around every second mile and the last few had some extras like Gu gels, flat pepsi and pretzels. The aid station at mile 10 was self service as it had either been packed up (because we were at the back of the pack) or the volunteers didn't make it to that station in the first place. I stopped to pee here since I felt like I needed to pee the entire time I was running and lucky I did because I spotted all the food.
Right from the get go my friend's knee hurt her and eventually her hip too. I tried to be her cheerleader and that seemed to work for the first while. We walked the hill at mile 6 and were greeted at the top with four Cherokee Native Americans (hope thats the PC term) playing drums and singing, what a pick me up!!
We also dipped into the Smoky Mountains National Park and saw 'Erica the Elk', also a fun pick me up.
The scenery for most of the race was fantastic. Unfortunately as the race went on my friend started to fade. The selfish competitive part of me wanted to go ahead, I really didn't want to log a PW but I couldn't leave. I know how it feels and she was really hurting so I stayed with her to try get her back in case there was a time limit.
We got back at around 2 hours 41 minutes and ran a lap around the track to the finish. Note we both sprinted the last few hundred meters to beat the older man who'd run most of the race near us so all of our competitive spirit was not lost. 

We crossed the line and I of course ran past all the volunteers. I went back to get my medal only to be told they'd run out. I think they ran out 2 runners before us according to Martina. The race director was in the middle of a crisis with the timing system (not that I cared about time at that stage) so when we offered our addresses, so they knew who to mail the medals to, they didn't seem too interested. Lets hope it shows up because if people who walked the 5k got the exact same medal, I'm sure as hell going to get one for running the half no matter how slow my time. I think I was so disappointed because it was a hard race, in terms of time on my feet and the mental effort of coaching myself and someone else for 13 miles. I was also starving so that might not have helped. 

The organisers promised swag bags to the first 700 people registered but ordered extra. Promised everyone a medal but ran out. I think the priorities need to be switched right there. Surely the swag bags cost a lot more than locally made wooden medals. Considering the 5K runners got the same medal and swag bag, I think I'd only go back to run the 5K in future.

The bag itself was the best one I've gotten at a race. Mesh on the back to let the sweaty clothes breathe and then a small waterproof zipped up pocket for phone, keys etc.

The others all hung out while I went off and finished my extra 3 miles. I'm sure everyone else leaving to go home thought I was crazy, I had to take off the race bib so people would stop telling me I was going the wrong way. Even if the pace wasn't there I wanted to at least finish the distance. Three and a half hours from when I started I was finished running, yay. 

I went back in to the track and lined up for food. It was amazing. The local culinary school made all the post-race food and it was all vegetarian. There was a bean/chilli casserole mix, brownies, smoothies, grilled corn, fruit and I'm sure I'm missing something. The point is it was awesome and I went back for second helpings. Best post-race food ever.

We headed back up to our campsite for the day. I lay down for a half hour for comfort but not sleep, which is normally all I want after a race. I felt really good for the rest of the day. Not too tired or sore. I was kind of amazed that I'd just run 19 miles but my body felt like it might as well have been 3. I don't know if I can interpret that as the slower pace helped or my training is working but at least I know I'm building up good endurance.
The rest of the day was spent hanging out at the fire, drinking beer and eating tons of food. Overall a good day.

So with this race, what would I change:
  • More port-a-potties at the start
  • Medals for ALL finishers
  • Rehearsal for the timing system

What were the highlights:
  • Awesome swag bag, shirt and beanie.
  • Delicious food.
  • Great scenery and nice course in general.
  • Enthusiastic, really fun and friendly volunteers.
Especially for the price the race was amazing but the experience was kind of ruined by the medal thing...childish I know but I can't help how I feel!! I think if it shows up in the mail I'll probably think of this as one of the better races of the year but right now all I think of is a gap on my medal rack :)

The dreaded splits----10.36, 12.06, 11.27, 11.14, 11.29, 11.12, 14.51 <--the giant hill, 11.23, 13.26, 12.12, 13.27, 12.24, 12.45.


  1. Nice work! How many half marathons have you done this year so far? I can't believe they did not give you a finisher medal. I would be grumpy too!!

  2. I would be bummed not to get the medal, too! :(

    That was nice of you to stick with your friend! Was that what you had decided on from the get-go? If I am pacing a friend who runs slower than me for the whole race and know that is the plan, I don't mind that we are going so slow. :) Unless I knew it meant I would be outted a medal LOL!

    1. Yes but I don't think either of us expected it to be that slow. She kept telling me to go on but I think that felt too much like abandoning ship. If I'd realised that we'd be out a medal I would have carried her for a mile or two lol