This was my first year running the Kings Mountain Half Marathon, but it has quite a reputation with local running groups as it is touted as an out and back course that is somehow uphill both ways. I mean, it is on a mountain for goodness sake. I'm not going to sugar coat it, this is a tough course, but when you finish it, you feel like a total badass!
The race is pretty small, just 170 participants for both the Half and the Full which started at the same time. With it being so small, each running is given special attention, with a welcome to the race twitter post by the management company when you register, to several pre-race emails. The race management (coordinated by Adventure Geeks Productions) really get to know the racers, recognizing multi-year participants by face/name making it a real intimate race.
I did day of packet pickup and it went super smooth and quick. I arrived early and carpooled with a friend and we were able to park right at the start. Participants who arrived later would have to park a mile or so away, but there was a shuttle bus bringing them to the start, so it was not a big deal. We received bags with s really nice tech shirt, a buff and Clif bar. We were told to hold on to the bottom portion of our bib to exchange for a post race meal (burger, hot dog or chicken sandwich with chips, muffin and drink) provided by a local Boy Scout troop.
The course winds through Kings Mountain State Park, which is absolutely beautiful. It was an unusually hot and humid race day, but luckily being on the mountain cooled things slightly, plus the course is very wooded so there was lots of shade. I considered not wearing my sunglasses, but glad I did for the last 2 miles when the sun came up fully. The first 4.5 miles of the Half was on paved road, which wasn't closed, but very minimal traffic (the Half and the Full followed the same route for just over a mile with the Half turning left and the Full turning right). After cresting a pretty big hill, the next 5 miles (consisting of about 2.5 miles down and then back again at the half way point) of the Half were on a gravel road with some pretty decent up and downs. At the turn around there was a port-a-potty and an aide station. The course had fully stocked aide stations about every 2. 5 miles with water, Gatorade, gels, protein bars and toilet paper (just in case you needed to hit the woods) and lots of volunteers cheering on the runners. At mile 10, someone was handing out cold towels and ice. The last 4.5 miles was running back to the start but somehow, the hills seemed so much worse the 2nd time around, esp the one at around 11.5 miles. I really had to push myself up that one and I think everyone within my sight walked a portion of it (including me).
At the finish, there were lots of people cheering runners and the race director called out each person as they crossed the line. The medal was awesome and doubled as a bottle opener. Despite the hills, heat and humidity, I managed a 3rd place age group finish! The awards ceremony was really nice with place boxes for award winners to stand on. Overall winners were given glass plaques while AG winners were given pint glasses with the race logo. It was awesome.
In summary, this race was a challenge, probably the hardest race I've ever done, but also one of the most enjoyable and best managed. I will absolutely do it again next year. Highly, highly recommend!!