CHARLOTTE – Brian Mister and his wife were stuck in traffic on I-277 driving home from a concert when it hit him.
“I thought, ‘I could get out and run faster than this. I could get out and walk faster than this,’ and we kind of joked around and thought, ‘Why don’t we actually try and do that?’” he said.
Fast forward four years later and that very thought is now a reality. With help from the City of Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and city and state departments of transportation, Mister created the Around the Crown 10K – a 6.2-mile race that will briefly shut down Charlotte’s major inner beltway during Labor Day Weekend.
The Sept. 1 race will begin and end at Romare Bearden Park, with a 5K on the I-277 inner loop and a 5K in uptown Charlotte. Runners will merge onto I-277 within the first mile and then meander through the streets of uptown by the end of the fourth mile. The last two miles will take runners west through historic Fourth Ward, past Johnson and Wales University and the BB&T Ballpark, and finally to the finish line.
“The course itself is unique … being able to run on Charlotte’s inner beltway that most people wont ever get to put their foot on and you’ll get to run about 5K of it,” Mister said.
The entire I-277 inner loop will be closed during the race, which begins at 7:04 a.m. Runners will need to stick to a very strict 13:45 minute per mile pace requirement in order to be off the highway by 8 a.m., which is when it will reopen to vehicles. The outer loop will not be affected.
Mister is an avid runner and serves as the marketing director for Run For Your Life, a running shoe retailer with three locations in the Charlotte region. He said working with the different agencies on race logistics and shutting down I-277 was surprisingly easy, but also a long process.
“It was very much a marathon and not a sprint when it came to getting everything organized,” he said.
Jen Thompson, a communications officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation, said officials were taken aback when Mister proposed the idea for the Around the Crown 10K because the department had never shut down I-277 before.
NCDOT considered closing the highway during the Democratic National Convention in 2012, but never did due to poor weather that affected attendance and forced many of the events and activities indoors, Thompson said.
The department is still working on the details of the traffic plan, but one thing is for sure – I-277 will close and motorists driving in the early morning on Sunday, Sept. 1, might be temporarily delayed.
“Any access onto the inner loop will be blocked off to motorists while we have runners out there,” Thompson said. “At this point in the planning process, we don’t have any plans in place to sign any detours around the closures because it won’t be closed that long.”
While the date of the race may seem inconvenient to motorists, Thompson said Labor Day Weekend was chosen for a reason. From a safety and traffic management point of view, NCDOT believes briefly closing I-277 in the morning on Sept. 1 will have the least impact on traffic.
“It’s a unique proposal, a unique idea, and we want to see if we could make it work because it would put Charlotte on the platform from another angle,” Thompson said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make it work and, first and foremost, we’re going to do everything we can to make it safe.”
“Many of us in the department are runners, so we’re excited to see this come together,” she added. “It’s going to offer people the perspective to see the city in a way they’ve never seen it because everyone is driving on I-277, so you’re going to see the skyline at a slower pace.”
The race costs $35 until March 13, when the price increases to $45. Prices will continue to rise until the day before the race, when it will reach $70 per person. Runners can register online until midnight on Aug. 30. In person registration will be available at a special expo on Aug. 31, where runners can shop vendors and get important race info and tips from speakers. The location of the expo has not yet been announced.
Proceeds from the race will be donated to Partners for Parks to support their signature event, Open Streets 704. Partners for Parks is an independent nonprofit that partners with Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department as a fundraising liaison. The organization works with various neighborhood and citizens groups to enhance county park and recreation programs and structures, and also offers grant assistance.
An idea four years in the making, Mister said he and his wife are just happy Around the Crown 10K is finally coming to fruition. They plan to measure the success of the inaugural event and make it an annual race that puts the Queen City even more on the map.
“We really just want to build the Charlotte active community, whether that’s biking, running, walking or just getting outside, so we’re excited to help build that community,” Mister said.
Want to run?
Around the Crown 10K begins at 7:04 a.m. Sept. 1 at Romare Bearden Park. Visit www.aroundthecrown10k.com for more information or to register for the event, and get race updates by following AroundTheCrown10K on Facebook.