Five spectacles to see along Charlotte’s Thunder Road marathon course

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With less than a month to go before runners swarm 26.2 miles of street in and around uptown for the 11th annual Thunder Road Marathon, the course has already been set and posted for viewing.

Well, courses — there is a 5K option, a half-marathon option and a full-marathon option.

I ran the half last year (see photo above for evidence) and wondered what I overlooked or missed — both from not running the full and from not looking more than two feet in front of my own feet.

For starters, I didn’t realize that more than 4,500 other runners were on the road with me that morning. I didn’t realize that the name “Thunder Road” held no deep meaning, that it was simply voted on by runners and people invested in the community. And I didn’t know that the pathway picked out for the course actually had a point.

“We want to showcase different areas of Charlotte,” said Tim Rhodes, race director.

The race features both old and new neighborhoods, including uptown, Eastover, Myers Park, Dilworth, South End, NoDa, Plaza Midwood and Elizabeth.

Running the marathon or thinking of signing up? Don’t miss these five spectacles:

 (1) Queens Road West around mile seven.

Charlotte Magazine writer Ken Garfield called this stretch the “Champs-Élysées” of Charlotte. He reported that urban planner John Nolen of Boston was commissioned to chisel out the 1,000 acres of Myers Park from a mostly treeless cotton farm, with electric streetcars intended to run through Queens Road West.

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(2) The Morehead Inn around mile eight

The inn, built in 1917 and known as “the old Coddington house,” was first owned as the home of Charles Coddington, a distributor of Buick automobiles. Around the year 1925, he sold the home to purchase The Duke Mansion. The Coddington house became an inn in 1984 and has since been recognized by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission.

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(3) The Panthers statues around mile 13 

The two mascots outside the South Mint Street entrance to Bank of America stadium are 22 feet long and 8 feet tall — and made of bronze. Sculptor Todd Andrews was commissioned for the project — now the panthers guard each gate.

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(4) The NoDa wall, traditionally between miles 18 and 20.

According to Run For Your Life race organizers, NoDa is one of the most enthusiastic neighborhoods that Thunder Road has been connected with. In keeping with that status, one of the avid runners in the neighborhood rallies residents to paint a portable wall each year to help runners push past the figurative wall that most people hit between miles 18 and 20.

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 (5) The rose garden at Independence Park around mile 23

Independence Park was the first public park established in Charlotte. Its creation was championed by Charlotte Observer founder Daniel Augustus Tompkins. The park was named by the city in 1904.

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You probably shouldn’t expect to stop and smell the roses during your marathon run. But open your eyes. Pay attention and soak up the sights. You just might notice something new.


Katie ToussaintKatie Toussaint currently prefers hot yoga studios over chilly streets, otherwise she would consider running Thunder Road again. When she’s not exercising, she edits for CharlotteFive and community news at the Charlotte Observer. Follow her on  Twitter @katietoussaint.

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