- 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Other, Relay, Virtual Race
- Road Race
- Event Website
+ Amazingly challenging course with great views.
+ Great race director and team.
+ A lot of support from the locals.
+ A pair of socks to go with the normal swag.
+ Offer race day packet pick-up
- This hills (mountains) are no joke.
- Wasn’t my favorite post-race runner refresh
I won an entry to the race of my choice (marathon, half marathon, 10k) at the Blue Ridge Marathon from #runchat. I was already signed up to run a marathon the week following and given the elevation challenge, I opted for the half marathon. I’m very happy I did, but will definitely be making a return trip to Roanoke to take on the marathon.
I arrived late afternoon on Friday and was able to quickly find parking near the expo in a pay lot. To park for the remainder of the day (until 2:00am) it was only $8. The expo and packet-pickup were in downtown Roanoake, Virginia. They had the packet pick-up process divided up by race, setup in a tent outside the City Market Building. The expo and shirt pick-up were both inside the City Market Building. The shirt pick-up was quick and easy. I tried to do a quick walk through the expo area which was on the opposite balcony side, but there were just too many people to be able to effectively browse.
Since my race entry was free, I paid the extra for the pasta party and race day VIP. The pasta party was held on the pavilion level of the library. With no dietary restrictions, I felt there were plenty of options for dinner and was able to get full. I do think the price was a tad high, but it was the best option for me. The race director and founders did a presentation on the course after the meal. It was interesting to hear their insight and how the race had come about.
The race provided guidance on race day parking options, which also happened to be free. I wasn’t sure how quickly the closest garage would fill up, so I arrived more than 60 minutes before the race start and found there to be many spots still available.
With the VIP access I purchased I was able to go up to the pavilion area at the library. This provided some light snacks, water, and most importantly indoor restrooms pre-race. All three races (10k, half marathon, and marathon) kicked off at the same time and started along the same course. Runners have about a mile to warm-up before starting the first climb. This climb lasts about three miles for the half marathon and 10k runners. The marathon runners break off about two-thirds up the mountain to head to an even larger climb. The view from the top of Mill Mountain is amazing. Even with the clouds in the area I had to stop and take pictures.
(Sidebar, you should not be looking to PR on this course, so seriously ENJOY the views). I used a walk-run approach up this first mountain going for 1:00 / 0:30 until I needed longer walk breaks. There is NO SHAME in walking on this course. There was an aid station midway up (where the course split) and another at the top. On the trip back down, one of the local residents sets up a table of Mimosa’s for the runners. I don’t normally stop for alcohol on course, but I was out there for the fun so I stopped and had one.
Once runners clear the bottom of this mountain, the 10k runners split off from the half marathon. The half marathon enjoys a short flat stretch before it moves on to the next climb. This climb was deceiving. The first was clearly headed up to the top of a mountain in a park. The second was all in a neighborhood. I kept thinking it would end soon but it kept climbing. This climb would also flatten out just to turn a corner and climb again.
The good news, in this race for every uphill (up mountain) you did actually get the downhill. After this second beast of a climb, there was one final peak but not nearly the climb the first two offered. Following the final hill there were a couple bridges in the final couple miles
All runners were welcomed across the finish line having their name called out and receiving a handshake from the original race director. Medals, heat sheets, and water were all immediately available. Outside the finisher shoot was a runner refreshment tent where they had muffins, fruit, and soda when I went through. Later there was pizza instead of muffins. The VIP area post-race had snacks, beer, and soda. I’d say the biggest selling point is the unlimited beer if you are into that. I’m not a big drinker post-race so again, I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth, outside having somewhere dry to change.
Unfortunately, the weather was a bit uncooperative for the day. They were forced to cancel the race at about 4:52 due to lightning in the area. I was bummed for all the runners still on the course.
I’m a fan of the race swag. All runners got a tee (cotton not tech), which I think is super cute and a pair of Farm to Feet socks. The medals were very well done as well.