Star City 10K – Race Report

I hadn’t planned on running the Star City 10K in Roanoke on November 17. I signed up last minute after my husband, Barry, offered to run with my running buddy, Kim, to help her PR the half marathon. I planned on getting some easy miles in at the 10K. However, this turned out to be quite the interesting race, and quite the adventure. This race report is going to be unlike any other that I’ve written.

First of all, the course was rerouted the night before due to flooding on a low water bridge. Both the half and 10K were now set to run an out and back from the start/finish area. They would follow the same course until mile 3.1, where the 10K would turn around. The half would continue until mile 6.5-ish and then they would turn around.

Obligatory pre-race photo.

The half marathon started at 8:15 and 10K started at 8:30. I saw Barry and Kim off and then waited for my start. At 8:30, we headed out to follow the half marathoners.

Less than half a mile into the race, the majority of the runners took a wrong turn in the downtown area, but I didn’t know this right away. Somewhere after the first mile, I realized we were not on course. I wasn’t seeing any arrows on the ground, there were no course marshals at any intersections, and I knew we were going in the wrong general direction. But I had no clue where we were supposed to be or how to get back on course. There were a ton of runners ahead of me and behind me, so I continued to follow them for the time being.

Around 1.5 miles there was a girl running ahead of me. I overheard her talking on the phone about how we were off course. That confirmed it for me. I figured I would just try and get in 3.1 miles and then retrace my steps (if I could) back to the finish line. Once the girl ahead of me finished her phone conversation, I caught up to her and verified that we were off course. She said she was just going to keep running in the downtown area and I asked if I could join. We initially ended up with a group of about four or five runners.

This is where it got kind of funny (depending on your outlook towards our predicament). We were looping around downtown Roanoke and so were other runners. Some were still following people, possibly thinking they were running the course. But most knew they were off course. We kind of laughed and waved as we passed each other in opposite directions and cheered each other on. Welcome to the “Choose Your Own 10K.” We also saw a few runners angrily walking back towards the finish.

Group of 10K runners coming towards our group. None of us were anywhere near the actual course.

Our group continued on the ‘Tour de Downtown Roanoke’, just putting in the miles and enjoying the gorgeous crisp fall weather and each other’s company. Along the way we picked up a few more “strays” and in total I think we had about 9 runners in our group. By mile 5 we did get back on the final part of the course and we fell in with other runners and made our way toward the finish. I finished in 1:11:31, with 6.75 miles on my watch.

Our Star City 10K group, minus two who are out of the shot. Photo by: Jimmy Moore

Maybe I’m being lax about the situation, but I really wasn’t angry that this happened. There’s some responsibility on the race director’s part, sure. But accidents happen. And I do think runners share a certain amount of responsibility in knowing the course. It’s the first time I’ve ever gotten lost at a road race, but it was still a good run. Thanks to the group I was running with, I ran a faster pace than I otherwise would have. And I think ‘my’ course turned out to be hillier and tougher.

Actual out-and-back race course.
The course I ended up running.

I’m not here to point fingers or place blame, but here’s what I think happened. I think either course marshals were missing from the below marked intersection, or they were there but directed us the wrong way. It’s common, especially in a road race, to simply follow the person in front of you. That’s how I think everyone got off course. And I’m pretty sure it was at this intersection, which was about half a mile into the race:

From what I heard, only the lead guy ran the actual 10K course. The majority of runners took a wrong turn during the first mile. And those that did make it out of the downtown area made a wrong turn through a park around mile 2. As far as I know, there were no issues with the half marathon runners staying on course. However, they had some issues of their own, with half the runners getting stopped for about a minute at a railroad crossing for an Amtrak train.

Overall, I still had a good day and had fun at the race. But I think there are definitely issues that need to be addressed by race management before next year.

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