Everything you need to know about the Charlotte Marathon this Saturday (whether you’re running or just want to avoid traffic)

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Photo courtesy of Run For Your Life

There are three kinds of people in this city on marathon day: those who sit in traffic due to road closures, those who run past the people sitting in traffic and those who hold signs and cheer for hours.

It’s no wonder the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon brings out so many Charlotteans on race day — the event is a celebration of our city’s active lifestyle, said Brian Mister, marketing director for Run For Your Life (which is a marathon sponsor).

This is a unique way for both runners and spectators to see the city, whether they’ve lived here a few months or a lifetime. “They’ll experience the sights and sounds of the signature tree-lined streets, historic landmarks, major sporting venues and the most eclectic neighborhood parties,” Mister said.

Here’s what you need to know about the Charlotte Marathon this Saturday — which will affect your life from the time you wake up until mid-afternoon, whether you’re running, cheering or avoiding the chaos.

The running

Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

If you’re running, you already have selected your distance: 5K (3.1 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles), full marathon (26.2 miles), or relay (26.2 miles split between 5 runners). There’s also a children’s one-mile race.

Runners will begin and end at the BB&T Ballpark. Be there bright and early — the race starts at 7:30 a.m. Make sure to allow time for parking — here are some available parking garages, or take the light rail. Allow time for bag check and that last bathroom break before heading to the start line.

From there, no big deal — just brace yourself for what could very well be the experience of a lifetime.

The cheering

Photos courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

Maybe you’re the “I only run if someone is chasing me” type, but you have friends who are running or you just want to see what the hype is about. Your cheer squad mission: Write a sign clever enough to make a runner motivate — or smile.

From there, you could purchase a VIP wristband for exclusive access at the ballpark (and catered brunch options from Chick-fil-A), or join an official cheer station for guaranteed fun along the course.

Music will be offered along the course — for live music, check out Pluto for Planet at Mint Street just before Summit Avenue or Thirsty Horses at Fuel Pizza on Central Avenue.

If you want to just show up somewhere and cheer, check out Colville Road to encourage runners attacking one of their first slow-and-steady uphills; Queens Road to cheer alongside the willow oaks; Mint Street to see the half-marathoners give it their last push; or Stonewall Street, where the uphill climb to the finish feels like it will last forever.

The eating

Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

Spectators, after you see your runners off, you may be hungry just thinking about all of the calories they are burning. Warm up with coffee and pastries from Not Just Coffee after the start gun goes off (opens at 8 a.m.), Smelly Cat Coffeehouse & Roastery before walking over to 35th Street or Central Coffee as you prepare to cheer during the last handful of miles. Or for a sit-down breakfast, hop on the light rail and head to Lincoln’s Haberdashery in South End (opens at 8 a.m.) or Jack Beagles in NoDa (opens at 9 a.m.). If you prefer to stay Uptown, wander over to Hazelnuts Creperie at 7th Street Market (opens at 8:30 a.m.).

Runners, you have your pre-race breakfast all planned out — you’ve likely been testing it for weeks before your long runs. But what about your post-run celebration meal?

NoDa Brewing is hosting the official post-race party, with food trucks and of course, beer. But all over town, people will be celebrating. Check out Mellow Mushroom for pizza and beer (call it carb-re-loading) close to the finish line, or Siggy’s Good Food for a healthy post-race celebration of juice or a beet, almond and goat-cheese salad — if you didn’t get your fill of beets before the race.

The traffic

CLT Marathon Course Preview from Charlotte Marathon on Vimeo.

Ok, so maybe you want to avoid the race all together. You don’t have to stay at home, but you’ll want to plan ahead for any adventures — here’s the list of road closures by time so you can plan accordingly.

Have you ever run or cheered in Charlotte Marathon (or Thunder Road, as it was once called)? What are your favorite parts of the course and why? Let us know in the comments!

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