Wednesday, April 15, 2009

04/14/09: Talladega 21000

Being a participant in the inaugural Talladega 21000 – a half marathon, so it really should have been the Talladega 21097.5 Meters – may some day be as notable as running in the first Boston Marathon or seeing the Beatles in the Cavern Club. Probably not, but that’s okay – it was still interesting and fun to run in the race, which included about four miles on, or pretty much on, the famed racetrack, including a couple of passes around the steeply banked turns, which we ran alongside the turns because there’s no way in hell we could have run on them. It was like running next to a wall, almost. One or two miles went under the grandstand and bleachers, which didn’t mix well with Garmins, and a mile or so through the infield, which was near the end (most of mile eleven) and I don’t remember well because I was dying. Plus more miles around the outside of the track and on some of the neighboring streets, including one stretch up the entrance to the speedway.

The course wasn’t very hilly but what hills there were tended to be steep and artificial – leading up behind the banked turns, leading up to the grandstand, leading up out of a tunnel onto the infield. There also wasn’t much shade on the course, not counting under the grandstand. We received a short-sleeve tech shirt at registration and a tech running cap at the finish; it was an overcast day so it didn’t matter but in the future they may want to consider providing the hat before the race. On a warm, cloudless day, it could come in handy.

Before the race, some guy in a Talladega Superspeedway pick-up kept on telling us to stay behind the blue wall; I thought he was referring to a sequel to some famous 1972 adult entertainment but that, in context, didn’t make much sense. I figured maybe he wasn’t actually associated with the speedway – maybe he was just some guy who knew how to hotwire a truck. I mean, there was blue wall and we did stay behind it – until the race started and we had to run on the other side. Sorry we hurt your track, mister.

After the race, which after an hour or so couldn’t come soon enough for me, they had a party in the pit garages featuring BBQ sandwiches and mediocre beer, but no soft drinks. Which I only mention because I really could have gone for a Dr. Pepper but even if they had soft drinks, the odds on Dr. Pepper being available still would have been slim. This wasn’t Texas, you know.

I think if they want to they could turn this race into a huge destination event; the people at packet pick-up seemed taken aback by this year’s turn-out but I gotta believe there are many NASCAR fans (small percentage, but a small percentage of a large number can still be a large number) that would love to run on this track. They said they had 400 preregistered and thought they might get up to 500 or so. The results show 325 finishers in the half and another 74 in the two-mile but I’m assuming the results don’t show anyone who decided not to wear a chip. Regardless, I’m pretty sure 400 people would be considered pretty good for an inaugural race and with more aggressive marketing, I think they could at least double that by next year.