Let's start with some brief notes of the stuff leading up to the race. First, I want to mention pre-race communications. The Ashburn Area Running Club (AARC), who put on the Loudoun Half Marathon and 8K, did an amazing job with communications. There were updates almost weekly updates leading up to the race for about a month an a half which was phenomenal. They were emailed to you and linked to the updates portion of the website. They talked about the course map, preview runs, a look at the shirt design, reminders and inspiration. This doesn't even include any additional small updates and pics from their Facebook page. Best I've seen for any races I've run. Yes, even runDisney didn't give this much contact leading up to their races.
Packet pickup was quick and easy. Walk up, find your bib number, next table get your packet, next table for goody bag and shirt and you're done The shirt was a nice quality tech shirt. Granted, it was a small race, so there wouldn't really be lines expected, but even at that they were set up to be amazingly efficient.
Race morning was good as well. Parking was ample at the school. It was nice being able to drive and park easily at the race site. The meeting area was right next to the stadium, which was opened up for the finish area and included real bathrooms, which was a nice added bonus. When I arrived there was zero line. Closer to start there got to be a short line (even in the men's room). Then it was just walk out the gate to the starting like and away we go.
This was a smaller race, so no corralling. Water stops were well spread out. They also FULL of people cheering, which was very nice. On a course that rolls through Ashburn, there wasn't exactly people lining the streets to cheer. There were people at time, still out as slow poke me came by, which was nice. All the water stations cheered and helped try to pump you up. Many seemed like they were being volunteered by local students, either from the track team or sports teams or other organizations, such as Boy Scouts. It was nice to see them out there. I have to also call out one specific group. Later in the course, way down at the bottom of a long hill there's a water stop. I see noone else ahead of me at this particular point. But I hear cheering. Loud cheering and hollering and clapping. Even though I was way in the distance, they were letting me know they saw me and they were there. There was a group ahead of the station, that I can only assume where cheerleaders, as they cheered a very rhythmic cheer. And they continued to cheer as I went off into the distance the other direction. It really helped mentally.
The weather was beautiful. Even as the sun warmed up, there was a breeze that countered it. As it wore on, I got a little warmer at times, but the breeze was usually not far behind. The course featured some rolling hills, but nothing too steep or difficult. Around mile 9 the course goes onto the W&OD trail. When I was at this point there was no problem. When the race pack was there, it may have been problematic. There are many bike riders who use that nice path in both directions and it isn't very wide to support the large volume of runners for a race. The course would follow the trail all the way to back by the school. While running on the trail, it was really encouraging. Many people, runners and bikers alike, would give me some encouragement as they ran in the opposite direction and saw my bib. I received a lot of "great job", "you're almost there" and "finish strong!" It felt good. The last small chunk of the race was on the track back at the school.
I was greeted immediately with my medal and congrats at the finish line. Even being the 4th from the end, they were still there for me. Heck, there were even 2 people there for medals. After my medal I got the 2nd most important thing: a cold bottle of water. I drank that and waited for the person behind me to cross because I knew they couldn't be too far behind. I clapped and cheered as they crossed, grabbed a 2nd bottle of water and headed for the food, and they still had plenty. I also liked it because it was different than other race, which often sports bananas, other fruit and maybe the occasional bagel. They had fruit cups, rice krispy treats, some cookies. It was a nice touch. Everyone was still there at the finish, caring about the back of the pack. It was a nice way to finish. Later, there were even high quality and FREE pictures from photographers that were out on the course, icing on the cake.