- 26.2 miles/Marathon, Virtual Race, Relay
- Road Race
- Event Website
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Straight to the point: this is one of my favorite road marathons yet! Whether this is your first or 50th marathon, Vermont City Marathon is a race not to be missed. From the pre-race info, to the race management, and the fantastic neighborhood support, make Vermont City your next destination race for sure. I found myself surrounding by pure happiness and excitement all weekend and couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the entire 26.2 miles. That should be enough info for you to make VCM your next race experience but if you want more details, read on.
Race options: full marathon, half and half relay (2 people who each run half marathon distance), 3-5 person relay
Pre-race: Registration opens on October 1 and starts around $110 for the marathon. Relay options open around December 28 and start at $175 total for the half and half, and $250 total for the 3-5 person relay. Race management makes great use of social medial with many Thursday afternoon Facebook live sessions highlighting different aspects of the course, on-course nutrition, training, and race weekend events. There's also a virtual training add on with Coach Sam Davis that provides a great training plan and awesome motivating email updates.
Travel: There's plenty of great housing options in Burlington including chain hotels, BnBs, AirBnBs, and really affordable dorm room options at the local colleges. Race management does a great job making the race as accessible as possible to many different price points. If you can swing the extra cost, I highly recommend flying into Burlington airport. The race expo, downtown, and race start/finish are all within 10 minutes of the airport so you can manage without a rental car this way.
Expo: The Doubletree Hotel is the host hotel and expo location. It's 2 miles from the starting line and easily accessible from the airport. For a "small town" race I was really impressed with the expo. There was a nice selection of local running store vendors, local races, several product booths, as well as a large Hoka representation. The expo and packet pickup takes place on Friday and Saturday before the race. Packet pickup is very easy and the volunteer spent a lot of time explaining everything in the packet, race morning procedures, shirt pickup, etc. I should mention here that you should leave extra time everywhere you go during your VCM weekend experience because you'll get in conversations with EVERYONE, they're so friendly. This year Meb Keflezighi was a special guest and ran in the 5 person relay. He attended several meet and greets at the expo and around town during the weekend to take photos and sign autographs. I definitely took advantage of that at the expo. Special guest appearance times are listed in the pre-race info emails and website leading up to the weekend, so pay attention and arrive early to limit wait time.
Race Morning: Start time is 7 am. If you drive to the start, arrive by 6:15 to get parking. There's plenty of street parking (free on Sundays!) and several garages around town, so it's a very accessible course. There's also a bike valet if you choose to ride down. We drove down and snagged a spot within feet of the finish area at 6:15. The start and finish areas are in slightly different locations so there's a bag drop at the start which makes it really easy to have a change of clothes ready at the finish area party. I was really glad to make use of this since I was able to change into dry clothes and enjoy the party, beer, ice cream comfortably. An abundance of port-o-potties and self-seeded corrals make this a very stress-free race start.
The Course: I LOVED this course. I have the course difficulty 2 stars only because fellow BibRave Pros who are used to running in very flat areas felt this course was hilly. In my opinion, the course had amazing rolling hills in the first 15 miles and then all downhill from there. The first 15 miles have several gradual hills with really nice downhills, and the only significant hill on the course is at mile 15 and it is definitely consequential. However, once you crest that hill it's literally downhill and flat for the rest of the race. I fast hiked the hill to save my legs and then cruised for the next 11 miles to a 20 minute PR. The course does have a lot of turns with clovers and out and backs. This is meant to keep the race sequestered in the downtown area and neighborhoods, which makes it a really spectator friendly course. Spectators can stay in downtown and probably see you at least half a dozen times without moving very far. This also means that there's no really lonely sections of the course. Miles 4-8 are on a section of highway called the Beltline. Normally highway sections are much hated by runners but the rolling scenery was a beautiful backdrop and the out-and-back made it really fun to cheer and high five oncoming runners. I even got to high five Meb as he was running back! The course loops through downtown and church street area several times with tons of spectators hanging out at restaurant patios. Super fun. Most of the course runs through neighborhoods. The race itself is so loved by the locals that it seems everyone in town makes a front-lawn party of the event. I especially loved the jello-shots as well as the maple syrup shots. Yes, pure grade A Vermont maple syrup because, of course! The last 4 miles of the course runs on a path along Lake Champlain for flat/downhill finish and beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Finally, the finish line was packed with people and running through the chute makes you feel like a celebrity. I was smiling ear-to-ear and had so many high fives.
Aid stations: Nearly every mile and included water and Gatorade. You can easily run this course without carrying hydration, but I carried my pack just as backup since it was a bit humid. There was also various nutrition at several intervals including: oranges, bananas, popsicles. Untapped Maple was also on course with maple syrup based gels, drink mix, and waffles. Super yummy and their products only contain 1-3 ingredients each. The aid stations were well-stocked and never appeared to struggle with supply. The volunteers were exceptionally and also provided great excitement and support.
Finish area: at the finish you receive a medal (really nice one), heat sheet, water, bananas and other post-race snacks, pizza, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and chocolate milk, among other goodies. Once you exit the finisher area you can head over to the after party for free craft beef and live music. They have the party area set up right next to the finisher chute so it's really fun to cheer on more runners.
Overall, I think it's pretty clear that I LOVE this race and every person involved in it. I highly recommend making a family and/or group trip. The exceptionally friendly environment and multiple race options make it a great choice for a fantastic weekend adventure.