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The Race Directors moved the start to 7am, given that the race was stopped last year because of the heat concerns. We had a cool (but humid) 54 degrees to start, and the sun warmed things up quickly. Naturally, the back part of the course is full sun. When I noticed that the red flags were up around mile 21, I grew more anxious about the conditions getting worse over the last few miles of the race. Still, running in red flag conditions can be scary. The spectators and neighbors came out to celebrate the race and helped to keep runners cool with ice pops, sprinklers, garden hoses, extra water... it was amazing.
I was a little overwhelmed and confused by the start area; I only found the starting corrals by stroke of luck (and walking around). I didn’t see any directional signage and thought the start was actually in the park (it's actually on the street next to). There are no corral assignments, so runners lined up by their expected pace — there was pace signage and course pacers. You can think of the course like a clover – it starts near Battery Park and takes four loops out of downtown Burlington and back, and then loops around another side of town (and repeat. and repeat). The course felt really crowded for the first few miles, and then it runs out-and-back onto an incredibly boring (and full sun) couple miles of highway. I loved that we passed through Church Street twice.
And then there is Mile 15: The Assault on Battery. Though the majority of VCM feels flat, there are seemingly constant rolling elevation changes (per my Garmin).
The aid stations were scattered every mile or so of the course and were manned by wonderful volunteers — all seemed to have water-Gatorade-water set-ups and there was signage when the aid stops were 1/2 mile away. There was also a bonus candy aid station near the mid-point of the course and an ice pop station at the back portion of the course. Clif shots and gels were provided at two different points, and there looked to be plenty of Kybos (portable toilets) along the course, too.
The best parts of the course BY FAR were in the neighborhoods between Miles 18-21. The race had some designated spots for course entertainment, but most of the fun came from the neighborhoods getting together to cheer and party. On our Church Street pass-throughs, there were drag queens giving high fives and many of the bars and restaurants opened their patios earlier to spectators. The best section of the race, as I mentioned above, was after leaving the city and that awful hill on Battery Street. Spectators were handing out slices of watermelon, oranges, bananas, candy, ice pops; neighborhood kids passing out drinks from their lemonade stands (adorable!)… And then by far one of the best things I’ve ever seen on a race course: SHOTS OF MAPLE SYRUP.
The crowds and spectators thin out once you hit the bike path, which takes you the remainder of the course to the finish line (which, while wooded, didn't offer a lot of solace from the sun). The finish area was just as confusing as the start. Volunteers handed us a bottled water and a bag to carry food through the athlete area. I didn’t see the results tent — and to be honest, I had no idea where to go. That said, Waterfront Park is beautiful and you can't beat taking a medal selfie with Lake Champlain as a backdrop.
Burlington is such an amazing place to go for a destination race and a great holiday adventure over Memorial Day weekend; also, Vermont City Marathon is great for those who love smaller races.
Bonus: Finishers get FREE race photos, sponsored by the local tourism board.