Friday, December 4, 2009

Northern Central Trails Marathon... Race Ratings!!!

Tagline: "Up hill both way, in the cold... with no shoes"
2009 Northern Central Trail Marathon

Registration Fee: $85 (Early Reg., $95 after)- The raced closed out before it reached late reg.

Overall Race Rating (weighted): 2.9/5.0
Average Calculated Rating: 3.17/5.0

~ This wasn't a bad race, but it definitely could use some work-- especially for the amount of money the registration is! Some of the race organization lacked a little and I felt the registration closed out a lot of runners-- they capped out the course, but they didnt get the whole path for the run either. The bikers on the course were a big problem and there was no GU. The swag was pretty cool... different from the normal: Jacket (albeit, not great looking), a pin, an OK medal.

Race Director: Let's place race director...
~What would I have changed if I were race director? The most important change I would make is to clear the bike path. Not only do the bikers slow down the runners, but it's not safe to have so many bikers on the course while a race is going on. GU or some sort of Gel could definitely be at one stop (2, since it is an out and back course). Instead of having tables on both sides of the course, make a longer water stop on one side or designate the right side for the out group and the left side for the runners coming back in the other direction.

Event Organization: 2.5/5.0 (now broken into 2 parts, see below as well) As far as "event organization" we'll go ahead and include things like Host hotel, website use, ease of travel to the event and to the actual race, etc.
Distance from Airport to Expo/Race: ~35 Miles
Rental Car Required: YES
~ To get to this race, you will likely fly into a Baltimore airport. If you fly southwest this can be a fairly cheap flight!!! I can see traffic being tricky depending on the day because you need to drive through Baltimore to get from the race to the aiport... but we lucked out and got there and back with plenty of time to spare! We did stay in one of the websites hotels (Crown Plaza) and had an excellent stay.. nice hotel, nice stay but they don't take breakfast orders until 7am (Even if the lady tells you they take them at 6am... grrr). The website is very basic, giving you a limited amount of information, but then again the race isn't huge so they only needed to communicate so much. There WERE some issues from closing out so early with mail-in registrations that I mentioned in a prior post.

Race Organization: 2.3/5.0
~ Race organizatoin wasn't great. There were no Gel Stops and the water stops kind of annoyed me... there were tables on both sides, which I'm sure was to be a convenience to the runners, but on such a small path, runners trying to go through got caught up behind runners that slowed or stopped. They also did not have the path cleared from bikers that were out for a ride... I got cut off a few times after crossing a street and entering onto a path. They DID have a sports drink at most, if not all, of the stops so that was a plus! Rest rooms were far and few between... but they were structures rather than port a johns, which was nice.

Once again, I asked to get my "State #" (21) somewhere on my race bib (21, 121, 221, etc) and they said they would try, but they gave me 22 instead. I mean C- for a little bit of effort, but thats not really the point of asking for 21. MB also asked for hers, and they didn't even come close.

Course: 3.0/5.0
~ I can see how this course COULD be appealing to some people... if you don't mind the long sloped uphill and still have the strength in your hamstrings after to fly back down, you're in good shape for this course. I found the course slightly annoying, as it went at so much of an incline for the first 14 miles that is started getting a little annoying around miles 8-10, but not enough of an incline up to feel like you were actually going downhill on the way back-- you just felt like it was flat on the way back. You end on an additional 1.2 mile of good sized hills to the finish. You were  shaded for most of the race if it happened to get hot and you had the option of going slightly off to path to run on softer ground, so that was a little plus.

Spectators: 3.0/5.0
~ There were a few breaks in the path where spectators could be. This is definitely a quiter crowd and a much more subdued race. There was a woman handing out gummy bears at one point and the relay pass-off point was a little more spirited (you go through that twice).

Pace Group: /5.0
~ DNE and didn't need

Runner/Corrals: 4.0/5.0
~ No corrals. Runners were pretty nice... quiet all around, but you could get some to chat if you felt like it. I think the first 14 uphill made the runners a little quiet as they started huffing and puffing toward the top.

Expo: 3.4/5.0
~ The packet pick-up was at a running store so we'll go ahead and call this the "expo." The store (Charm City Run) was not a bad size... you could get anything you needed-- GU, sports beans, bottles, clothing, shoes, etc. Prices weren't bad, but of course it wasn't like a real expo with the discounts. They did have a map of the courses and more information if you were looking for it.

Swag: 4.0/5.0
~T-Shirt: This was the 20th running of the marathon, so they had jackets instead of shirts. They are black jackets that look a little like a fireman's jacket and are almost as heavy. They had a hood with their track club name on the back and the race on the front. Where these jackets lack in appearence, they make up in warmth for the long cold winter runs. 4.0
~Medals: The medals were pretty basic, but they kind of had a shine to them that made them look plastic instead of metal. 2.8
~ Goodie Bag: The goodie bag itself was kind of cool... a red track club back-pack bag with double drawstrings. There was also a 20th anniversary pin inside... pretty cool! +.5
~ Race pics: I tried to avoid the camera this time... after my RI disaster pics. They weren't bad though... giving the runners abour 5-10 shots. A really good one at the finish.


  1. I was one of those late enteries that didn't get in this year because of the anniversary. Ugh! Having run it before and knowing the uphill grade for better than the first half I wasn't sure if I would do it so I waited. Never a problem before but this year it cost me my second fall marathon. Oh well. I got in lots of 5 & 10Ks and Sunday I am doing a half. It forced me to get in a little speed training (via shorter races) but I would have liked to have ran it on the anniversary.

    Great rating. Perfect discription of the course conditions (as I remember them).

  2. So funny - I thought the whole thing was flat as a pancake until that last mile of hills! I didn't notice the uphill at all, and thought it would be a perfect course for a BQ. I ran about 15 minutes faster than my usual (though I've been getting faster lately, so who knows). Great to see you out there, even briefly!

    Oh - as far as the gels, they weren't provided b/c they didn't want them littering the course. People are more likely to stash them if they bring them on their own. This seems to be standard for most of the trail runs I've looked at, and I didn't have a problem since they were clear on that in advance.

    I missed the soup too for the same reason and was annoyed :(

  3. Just found your blog! Love your race recaps :) Happy Holidays!