Latest reviews by Patricia Baker
This was probably the toughest course of the 20 marathons I have done. The hills were numerous, long, and pretty steep in places. Weather for 2016 was warm and humid (65-74 degrees, with 85-90% humidity) but cloud cover and strong winds helped to keep things cool and bearable.
The pacers at this race are very good. If you are able to hang with a group I strongly encourage it. There wasn't a huge spectator turnout, but there were many nice folks out along the course who were friendly and encouraging. I don't think they realize how much their presence helps! The police did a good job of controlling traffic at major intersections; however, a few cars managed to slip through, so it is important to stay alert.
At the later aid stations they hand out water-chilled washcloths that are wonderful. And don't throw those away after they have dried out, as they will refresh those for you at a subsequent aid station.
The time limit for this race is 6 hours, at which point runners will be asked to move to the sidewalks to finish. If you finish after the 6 hour mark you should be prepared to miss out on the post-race food and drink, but you most likely will still receive a bottle of water and your medal.
This race is not for the faint of heart -- be sure you do a lot of hill training to prepare. This would be a difficult race even without the heat and humidity.
I only did this race because I was visiting my sisters (who live in California) when we all visited the DC area. It sounded like it might be both fun and scenic. We were staying closer to DC, so I was a little turned off at first by the idea of driving all the way out on a Friday to pick up my bib number. However, I spent the extra $ for "VIP" race day packet pickup just to avoid that (the extra $ seemed a bit of a money grab to me, but what can you do?). I didn't mind settling for complimentary parking at the high school, but my sisters were miffed that they would need to pay to board the shuttle bus, so they decided to take our rental car into town while I ran the race.
When the shuttle bus dropped us off at the winery, it was still very dark out, and then we needed to hike down a trail to get to the packet pickup, gear check, and start area. They really could have used better lighting along that trail -- a couple of us nearly turned our ankles on the way down the hill in the dark.
The race shirt was a nice hot pink color, and I the tutu was OK. I am not big on the whole tutu thing, but I wore it for this race.
There were ample port-a-potties in the start area, and there was a small table where we could get water prior to the race start. It was very pretty and scenic at the winery once the sun came up, with rolling hills. I really liked that there were many more women of color doing this race than I generally see at most of the half marathons I have done.
The first 3/4 of a mile were on a gravelly road. Not the best, but it was a definite improvement over the trail we had to hike down earlier in the morning. Once we got onto paved roadway I was feeling more at ease.
I was somewhat disappointed that most of the course took us through neighborhoods instead of a more scenic landscape. But a lot of the residents were out on their lawns cheering us on, which was really nice to see.
The hills were relentless throughout the course, and they were surprisingly steep. I didn't mind, because I had been training for a hilly full marathon anyway. They continued through out approximately miles 10-11 before flattening out leading back to the winery. From there, we were back on gravelly roads and -- ta da! -- shortly after picking up our boas and tiaras we had one more pretty good hill before reaching the finishing chute.
I was disappointed that the "bubbly" post-race toast consisted of sparkling cider. Don't try to tell me that had to do with Virginia liquor laws -- they were pouring wine for those runners who run with their phones and were able to access their free wine tasting coupon... I don't run with my phone, so I just had to forget about that. But there was a nice selection of fruit and snack foods to choose from after the race, and Minute Rice had some nice giveaway rice bowl items.
The shuttle bus ride back to the high school went off without a hitch. No complaints there.
All in all, this wasn't a bad race experience for an experienced runner like myself. But I felt sorry for those for whom this was their first half marathon. The cost of the race was a bit on the pricey side in my opinion. And the breast cancer charity that supposedly received some of the proceeds sounded a little sketchy to me.