- 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race, Relay, Other
- Road Race
- Event Website
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Pre-race: I loved the social media presence and communication. The race has great engagement online and the pre-race communication was just enough to provide the information you needed and get you excited for the race but wasn't "spammy". Registration was easy via active.com and allowed for easy purchase of "add-ons" including pasta dinner, discounted concert tickets (the race weekend takes place at the same time as a city-wide music festival), extra swag (they're design and products are awesome - you'll want ALL THE THINGS!), VIP (I didn't get it but my BibRave friends all highly recommend it), etc.
Expo: This year it was at the Patrick Henry hotel. The expo, race start/finish area, pasta dinner, concerts, etc were all held in the hotel and adjacent park in downtown Roanoke so everything was very easily accessible. The expo was very quick and easy and I loved getting a dose of the amazing volunteers for the first time of the weekend (they really are some of the best volunteers I've seen). it's not a huge expo but there's an awesome little store area where you can get last minute fuel, race needs, and extra race swag. I purchased the awesome 10th anniversary mug but all the products were of great quality. I was very tempted to get one of their Boco Gear hats since that's my favorite hat brand. The race logos, designs, etc were really top notch and the race shirt quality is great. One of my favorite race shirts, although the women's sizes ran much smaller than expected.
Race morning: a few weeks before the race a spot opened up in the Double Marathon so I decided to take the challenge since I'd been feeling strong this spring. For the double you have the option to start the first lap at 1am or 2:30 am if you're faster. Most participants (max capacity is 100) opted for the 1am start. The regular race start is 7:35am so you have until that time to finish the first lap. With over 4,000 feet of climbing this is not an easy task. I'm an average 5 hour marathoner at this point but the first lap took me 5:48. I had enough time to quickly head to the double transition area at a local hotel, grab some snacks and then head right back out to the start of the 2nd lap. My 2 biggest "complaints" of the whole race have to do with the double. First, the transition area with our drop bags was about .5 miles from the finish area. It would have been nice if they had a dedicated tent right in the start/finish park area so that we could more quickly access our gear and get back out for the next start. I'm thinking a dedicated tent with a couple private port-o-johns would have made a huge difference. Second, even though it's very clear from the pre-race info that the first lap of the double is mostly self supported (they had about 5-6 cars on course with water jugs), I think with 100 people running it out of 500 total running the marathon, this represents a significant proportion of the race field and probably warrants more support on the first lap, particularly in the way of fuel and hydration.
The course: I ran the full course at night and half of the second lap during the day. In both cases, the course was very difficult (it is America's Toughest road marathon after all) but really fun and beautiful. The difficulty of the course really pays off with the views you get, particularly at the top of Roanoke and Mill Mountains. I highly recommend doing some serious hill training before this race; I started doing a targeted hill treadmill workout and I'm convinced it helped me feel surprisingly strong on the climbs.
Aid stations: while I wish there had been more aid on the first lap of the double, the aid on the "real" marathon course during the day was second to none. Aid stations are at least every 2 miles with tons of amazingly cheerful volunteers. They're each stocked with Scratch hydration, water, and about half of the stations of gels, bananas, and some other basic snacks. Since I was technically running an ultramarathon I would have loved to see more of the traditional ultramarathon aid station fair (i.e. more "real" food) but one of the downsides to doing an ultra on the road is dealing with typical road aid stations (sorry, they're just not the same lol). However, in terms of half/full marathon road support, the aid stations were perfect.
Post race: as indicated in the title, I ended up DNFing the double due to poor hydration/fueling. I voluntarily sought medical care about halfway through the second lap. The volunteers and medical staff were amazing and I know I made the right decision. I did make it to the finish line area after that and enjoyed the post-race food (pizza, bagels, cupcakes, chocolate milk, etc.) as well as great live music. There were also a bunch of food trucks offering other treats such as beer, ice cream, bbq. Did I mention live music?
- the race app is probably the best race app I've seen. Every bit of information you need to find out about the race weekend is easily found in the app including live tracking that actually works, photos, discounts, schedule, parking info, etc.
- The Slow K! This was seriously the best idea I've seen at a race and every race should do it. This was a 5k "race" on Sunday. Given that the half/full/double are the "toughest road races in America" it's perfect to have a very SLOW 5k the next day. Everyone got a coffee mug with free coffee and hot chocolate and the race "bib" was a lei. There was also the option to purchase mimosas! I LOVED walking with my coffee and chatting with some other BibRave friends along the way. It was a great way to stretch the legs before getting on the plane home. They were very serious about "going slow" too - the only award went to the very last person. Seriously, every race needs to do this. :-D
All in all, while I'm bummed I didn't get the result I wanted, I'm so glad I took the challenge. I really loved the whole experience and will definitely go back in the future (I'm already thinking about next year!) I loved the race so much I'm thinking about applying to be an official race ambassador. If you want a challenge while also experience beautiful views, amazing volunteers, and the best post-race party and swag around then put Blue Ridge Marathon on your must-do list!