Most of the time when I Google a race it’s because I am looking for details of what I can expect should I choose to register, and not a long narrative or a play by play of someone’s race experience. In honor and respect of others who think like me, this post will be just that, a race review of The Scream Half Marathon, logistics-style.
The Scream! is billed as 13.1 miles of “Pure Hill” (downhill that is). The race begins at Jonas Ridge in Burke County and meanders along a gorgeous path of mostly unpaved roads to a place called Mortimer.
Don’t worry, you aren’t going the wrong way. Jonas Ridge is in a “scenic” area of North Carolina. No, let’s face it, the parking area is in BFE. But to it’s credit, the parking location is complete with full service bathrooms (hallelujah). From the parking area you will take a 30 minute school bus shuttle ride up and up and up to a cute little convenience store where you pick up your race packet. I believe in years past that you had to pay for the shuttle, but now all shuttles are included in the race feel. Packet pick-up is very smooth and the race has a convenient bag drop off. There are more bathrooms (this time porta-potties) too. Since the race is limited to 350 runners, the number of potties provided is more than sufficient.
The first couple of miles are on an old country road, complete with howling hound dogs. Soon though, the course takes a right onto an unpaved meandering road with a canopy of gorgeous-beyond-belief greenery. Down, down, down you go for miles and miles. There is a short hill climb between miles 6 and 7 and again somewhere in the 9th mile. I was clicking along at a very fast pace on the downhill, so was annoyed at how much I slowed on the uphill, but the hills really aren’t that steep. I was also very happy that there weren’t many loose pieces of rock or very large rocks on the trail because I am prone to twisting my ankle. The final miles towards the finish line are much more level with some uphill, but it doesn’t last for very long. My overall impression of the course is that it is FAST, beautiful, and fun. I’m excited to get to run it again during the Peak to Creek Marathon this October.
The water stations were spaced well and the volunteers staffing them were enthusiastic, helpful, and knew what they were doing. There was one guy at mile 10ish who packed up early, but I think he was a fluke. It rained during the whole race this year, so I think he just bailed for comfort reasons. Everyone else was awesome though! And more importantly, none of the stations ran out of water or gatorade. Oh, and the gatorade flavor was yummy - something purple - and the portions were liberal.
The Finish and Medals
The race is chip timed, and even though there wasn’t a timing mat at the beginning to clock your “actual” start time, there are so few runners that the time difference isn’t a big deal. I was pretty far back in the startup line and my Garmin finish time (2:01:54) was extremely close to my chip finish time (2:02:06). As far as the medal goes, I run for the bling! A good medal is important to me and The Scream medal did not disappoint! It was high quality with a great design. Kudos!
Getting Back to your Car
I knew the ride to the start was going to take a while, but I expected the finish line to be close to the parking lot. It wasn’t. Had I known ahead of time I might not have been so cranky about the 1hr wait (in the rain) for a shuttle back to the parking lot. Of course, the ride back was about 30 minutes which explains why it took the buses so long to come back and get us. So, be prepared. I can say that the friendly chats with other runners while waiting on the bus was fun and contributed positively to my overall experience.
Why you SHOULD Do this Race
This race was my favorite half marathon I have ever done! (thought I have only done 4). I felt it was well organized, well run, the other runners were supportive and courteous, the course was stunning and fast, and the bling is second to none. The wait time on the shuttle back to the cars was a bit problematic, especially for the runners who were cold natured (getting rained on for 1.5-3 hrs and then having to wait an hour to get to dry clothes and your warm car = cranky participants) but I’m like a little space heater and was quite comfortable the whole time.
Why you should NOT Do this Race
Running downhill like this is hard on your body. The race webpage is very explicit that you will be SORE after this race. I wouldn’t recommend going for it if you have any active knee, shin, quad, hamstring, ankle, etc., pain AT ALL. You will regret it.
Overall, I give this race a 9 out of 10! So sign up and scream your way to a new PR.
For an even more detailed assessment of this race (from 2013) see http://old-nc-runner.blogspot.com/2012/07/race-184-scream-half-marathon-jonas.html