Whenever you decide to run a race in Chapel Hill, you should understand that there’s a good reason “hill” is part of the town’s name. Train for the hills ahead of your race or prepare to be overwhelmed by them in many cases. The same is true for the rest of Orange County’s races and to a lesser extent in Carrboro.
There are numerous 5K’s over the course of the year that benefit UNC student groups and local Chapel Hill area charities, so you’ll usually have a race option nearly every weekend. Just don’t expect to find a flat course or a race where you’ll likely put up a personal-best time unless you have a really good day and everything falls into place.
Some of the best Orange County races are part of the Cardinal Track Club’s three-race Le Tour de Carrboro, with all net proceeds going to six community partners. Here are the most popular Orange County races:
1Tar Heel 10 Miler (plus a four-mile race)
11th annual race, April 21 @ UNC Campus near Bell Tower
Orange County has no marathons, but this race has the feel of a big-time, big-city marathon. It is a first-class event that gives you a beautiful course that goes through the UNC campus and takes you down Franklin Street. Much of the 10-mile course is rolling. But the most daunting hill on Laurel Hill Road is saved for the last few miles (that was eliminated from the four-mile course a few years ago.)
The races start on South Road near the Bell Tower. They used to finish inside Kenan Stadium. In recent years, they have finished on Stadium Drive next to Kenan Stadium, which gives you another little hill before finally reaching the finish line.
18th annual race, November 22 @ Weaver Street in Carrboro
This is as much of a Thanksgiving Day tradition for many runners as scarfing down turkey, thus the name. The final Le Tour race each year, a record 1,693 registered for the 2017 race. It starts and finishes in downtown Carrboro and includes rolling hills through Carrboro neighborhoods.
In late November, the conditions can be a mixed bag, from unseasonably warm weather to bone-chilling cold. But it’s always a great way to start your Thanksgiving.
3Historic Hillsborough Half-Marathon (plus a 5K)
3rd annual race, October 7 @ Margaret Ln in Hillsborough
A relatively new race that is quickly building a following, the course is a hilly mix of downtown Hillsborough streets, country roads, and greenway trails. The half-marathon includes a lap around the historic Occoneechee Speedway.
Administered by the Hillsborough Running Club, the inaugural races ran in late September, but have shifted to early October.
16th annual race, July 4 @ McDougle Middle School in Carrboro
What better way to start your Independence Day celebration than with some running fireworks on the rolling four-mile course? It starts on Old Fayetteville Road and finishes on the McDougle Middle School track.
It usually draws a good crowd and is early enough to escape the worst of the hot temperatures that are typical in early July. It is the first Le Tour race each year.
13th annual race, October 6 @ McDougle Middle School in Carrboro
With the same staging area as the Four on the Fourth race, the middle of the three Le Tour races offers cooler temperatures and a more extended race. This race, formerly called Familias del Pueblo 10K, is a fall tradition in and gives runners the typical rolling hills that you would expect in an Orange County race.
There are plenty of other choices in Orange County, including the Not So Normal races in Carrboro, which include rare races such as the ¼ marathon (6.55 miles) and the ¾ marathon (19.65 miles) as well as a half-marathon, a 5K and relays on those first two distances. Whichever race you pick, just be ready for a few climbs.
So what are some of your favorite races and marathons in the Chapel Hill area? Please be sure to hit us up on Twitter @919BlogNC or visit our Facebook page at FB.com/919Blog and let us know! We would love to hear from ya.
This post was created in collaboration with 919 Blog contributor R.L. Bynum for exclusive digital publication on 919Blog.com