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Monday, November 19, 2012

Magic City Half

Magic City Half took place yesterday in Birmingham, AL, and it was the third half in the Birmingham Triple Crown series. Talladega and Life Without Limits were the first two in the series. For me this was my 12th half in 2012 (13th if you count the Auburn Classic Half that I ran on my own after the official race was cancelled in January) and thus marked the end of my journey to run 12 in 2012.

My running buddy for the second half of the race-loved running with her!


The Good

The aid stations were well-prepared with water, Powerade, and Hammer gels and spaced pretty evenly along the course. The course was also well-marked at each mile. Packet pickup was easy to navigate. I finished in 2:34:06! I was really pleased with that time since this was part of a training run. That's where the good parts end.

Ruben Studdard and I pre-race
Lululemon cheerleaders at the halfway point
I may not wear Lululemon but I do love their signs that they hold during races
The Bad

Well, the race was supposed to start at 8 and didn't start until 8:30. Not a huge deal but when you dress for a certain temperature range and then the start time shifts so does the temperature during the race. There was a 17 degree jump from start to finish.

Perhaps I'm spoiled from the other races I've done this year but there were no split times along the course. I had my watch so it wasn't a big deal for me but it would have been nice to have.

In addition to the cobblestone sections of street pictured below there were more parts than not that had uneven pavement and nearly all the streets desperately needed resurfacing which made running very interesting.
this reminded me of downtown Charleston and although I love cobblestone streets they aren't the best for running

The Ugly

The course is in downtown Birmingham and basically runs you through the sections of Birmingham you should never drive through at nighttime. Even with cops all over the course there were sections that I didn't feel comfortable in at all and I did my best to tune out the comments of the people along the side of the road.

Honestly the course it ugly. There's no nice way to dress it up. It was depressing and it breaks my heart to think about how many cities across the country have sections of their downtown areas that are like this-once thriving and now dying. **This is not to say anything negative about all of Birmingham. Allan was born and raised there. I was raised in Montgomery and our downtown area has greatly improved but there are still sections that are rundown and filled with empty, old buildings. I am merely pointing out that this is not an ideal area for a race course.**

Last but not least let me comment on the girls working the entrance to packet pickup that took down my name and handed me my post-it to take to the tables where I actually got to pick up my packet. When I ask you where the race starts try saying "I don't know" instead of saying "somewhere really close to here" and don't roll your eyes at me.

one of the "lovely" tunnels we ran through

Although I was excited to see "You Are Beautiful" spray painted on the building it was heartbreaking to see all the old, abandoned buildings in downtown Birmingham

this tunnel scared me!

 Needless to say I'm glad this Triple Crown series is over. Talladega is one I'll never run again and the only way I'm running this one again is if Allan runs with me and stays with me during the race. The likelihood of me running Life Without Limits in Florence is 50/50 since that bridge still haunts my dreams. I can't say I'd recommend this one to anybody.

Have you had a race that you struggled to say anything nice about?
Did you go back and run it again anyway?


  1. I'm sorry about the race :( I hate to say it but I know exactly how ugly/boring this course is which is precisely why I didn't run it--it's like the course nightmares are made of. Give me difficult and scenic any day over THAT.

    Though in the same breath I (somewhat) feel the need to defend the city since I live here. Though there are LOTS of improvements needed in downtown, there are many great changes that HAVE been made in the immediate downtown/UAB area, including near that "You Are Beautiful" building is (near RR park/Children's?) and I think there is still a good bit of momentum behind the revitalization which gives me hope. I work downtown so I am able to see many changes on a day to day basis and know how much different it is than even 3-5 years ago.

  2. I saw this race a while ago and thought about running it, but after reading this I am so glad I didn't. That tunnel would have definitely scared me. Great job on finishing 12 marathons this year, that is a huge accomplishment!

  3. CONGRATULATIONS on completing 12 in 2012!!!!!!! great time, sorry the race was so crappy but thanks for your honest review!

  4. Congrats on your 12!! Bummer about the race course. I live in Jackson, MS and rarely go downtown for the very same reason - very sad to see all the run down vacant buildings. I just see so much potential down there and no one wants to put the money in to revive it because they say the crime is too high! Seriously? In what city is the crime rate not too high? That's part of being in a city!

  5. oh gosh. this sounds awful!! and i hate that about the course. and the volunteers. and the late start. I would’ve freaked out in the bad areas of the city. that really sucks, because parts of b-ham are so nice. hmm, i definitely didn’t have many nice things to say about the NC race i did in the spring. i would never do it again though. :) congrats on completing 12 in 2012! So exciting!

  6. That sounds horrible!! I'll definitely keep this one on my list of races NOT to do in my 51 in 51! I've been to Brimingham a few times but probably not in the areas you were running in...thankfully!!

  7. I participated in a 10k recently that was miserable in the aspect that roads were not even at all...i"ve had foot problems since July and I was near tears at mile two that I ended up only doing 4 of the 6 miles.

  8. Way to go with the 12 in 2012!!

    I'm sorry the race wasn't very scenic...but that's a great time for such a course! It makes it difficult to concentrate on courses like that.

  9. I didn't realize your husband grew up here! Did he live in one of the suburbs or in town? Also, I didn't realize that you were going to be at Magic City! I would have come down to cheer you on. My brother and I used to run in that area a lot. He loves to run over there to get people in the area thinking about getting out and running. I have fallen more than once on a cruddy sidewalk over there, so I can imagine the streets aren't much better. And I heard about the 30 minutes and cringed when I heard it. That is a really, really late start.

  10. Some of my very best friends live in montgomery, I go see them about 3 times a year....did not know you lived you also hear Its a small world in your head:)

  11. Seriously sucks about those women at registration and the 1/2 hour late start. I'd be upset - it's usually not cheap to run a half. Never have I had an experience like that. Hopefully you complained so they can improve. And, GREAT job girl!!

  12. Congrats on running 12 in 2012 - that is an awesome accomplishment. I'm sorry you had a stinky race, sounds like they definitely need to make some improvements!!

  13. Wow that is a really ugly, and dangerous! course. Boo. I would not do that one again for sure.
    Congrats on a solid time though and yay for 12 in 12--you rocked it!

  14. Yes. Sometimes it is better to say very little if you can't find anything nice to say. However, sometimes I wish people would be a little more honest about a race/course, especially since I travel so much for them. I've ended up running some that I wouldn't have run if I was more informed.

    Congrats on 12 in 12!!

  15. Too bad this was a crappy race. And the girls working the packet pick up entrance? Ugh! That's just horrible!
    But you got a great time!! Congrats on 12 in 12! That is SO awesome!!

  16. Wow. Tell us how you really feel. :-D J/K. I'm feeling a little loopy today, I guess. It is sad about the degradation of the city and that you didn't feel super safe while running through parts of it. That's a real bummer.

    Those lululemon signs were hilarious, though! :D

    Oh yeah, and total congrats on 12 in 2012!!! That is so awesome and inspiring. :)

  17. That's too bad about the race!! Running through the sketchy parts of town does not sound like fun at all!

  18. Oh YEAH I have done races where I had NOTHING positive to say at the end and NO I won't run them again unless they change the things that were cause for concern. Registration fees are not cheap and I hate to waste my money, you know!

    WOO HOO 12 half marys in '12! That is AWESOME SAUCE, girl!!!!

  19. Congratulations for completing 12 half marathons in 2012! That is amazing!
    P.S. I would love to meet up for a race next year!
    Let me know if you decide to do any of those races I posted.

  20. Eep. Running in a tunnel that long would make me nervous too! Congrats!

  21. Congratulations on your 12 halves. Amazing. I would love to do something like that one year. Wish there were more races near me.
    Also those Cobblestones. Yikes! Funny you said they remind you of Charleston because that is where I live and exactly what I was running on when I killed my ankle this weekend.

  22. Congrats - I feel your pain on the cobblestone streets - my half in St Petes had them too...NOT A FAN.

    xoxo from Trinidad

  23. Umm...that tunnel would scare me, too! Great job, though!! 12 half-marathons in a year? That's awesome! I'd love to make that a goal, but I don't even think I could find 12 in my area that would be inexpensive enough. :)

  24. Great job completeing all 12 races this year with a month to spare!

  25. I actually ran a little 5k in Auburn this year that I won't run again. The route was ok, but the atmosphere wasn't friendly enough for me. Nothing horrible to say about it, but nothing good either. :) Except I logged 3.1 miles for that day!

    Birmingham is probably my least favorite city to travel to-for some of the reasons you listed. :)


  26. That's awesome Suzanne, 12 half marathons this year is very impressive, and well done for running faster than expected! Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. CONGRATS ON YOUR HALF MARATHON FINISH! Cobblestone are my arch enemy! Also, if people wouldn't run the course on a normal day, it shouldn't be in a race. I'm sad to hear that there were precarious parts of the course, I hope race directors consider this.

  28. Congratulations on your 12th (13th) half marathon for the year! What a great accomplishment!

    I'm sorry that the race was such a let down, I've never had a race like that before. It is unfortunate that the area is so run down, but I wouldn't want to run there either! We have areas like that in Rochester, I don't even feel safe driving through them.

  29. Another solid race but too bad it wasn't a better experience. Congrats on a great finish though!
    I can't believe RC is getting so close now!! Woot! :D

  30. How sad - but a big congrats on your 12 in 12!

    I hate when I struggle to find good things in races, but it's happened. I think mostly I dislike races when they aren't what they are advertised to be. *Rock'n'Roll ... I'm onto you and your flat elevation charts when they are really rolling mountains!

  31. Congratulations on your finish! On the plus side there are so many great races and courses around that you won't have to run that one again unless you really want to!!!

    I have run a few races that I struggled to find lots of things I enjoyed about them too! But even in those races, after a few weeks to a month passes I tend to look back and discover a few things that I liked, just took me a little time to realize:)


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