Let me start by saying that I loved, loved, loved, this crazy race. It is named the 8th most difficult marathon course in the world. And difficult it was. We are talking over 7,200 feet of elevation change and an extra 200 feet this year due to flooding. It was all kinds of crazy. Yet all kinds of awesome.
However, if you are looking for a fast course or are remotely worried about your time (unless you are elite), this race may not be for you. I felt that I gave it my all and fought with everything I had to keep moving forward at times, yet still finished over an hour longer than my normal marathon time.
Lucky for me, I had a wingman who is actually the one responsible for roping me into this in the first place. My soul sister, bff running buddy, Michelle (Runnermommy) and I were in this together for the long haul.
Thursday night dinner and drinks.
Friday morning shake out run.
Along the way, we met some amazing Twitter runners, who are certain to be lifelong friends. (FYI- If you are a runner and not on Twitter, get on asap. The support and resources are amazing.)
Down to the nitty gritty.... The race takes place in Roanoke, Virginia, with the majority of the race in the Blue Ridge Mountains. First of all, Roanoke is all kinds of adorbs with a ton of charm. The people of Roanoke were so gracious, accommodating, and polite. Loved this city. We stayed at the Roanoke Hotel, which was beautiful, historic, and again, the peeps were nothing but friendly. Just a couple of Iphone snaps.
This is technically a pretty darn small race. I believe there were around 500 full marathon runners and 1,700 half marathon runners. Also a relay option and not quite certain of the field on that but not huge. The expo was tiny but great. I'm obviously an Advocare Rehydrate girl but they were throwing various gels at us left and right. I think I left with a million free gels, an awesome running shoe bag, and of course the tech t's.
The best part was personally meeting living running legends Frank Shorter and Bart Yasso. They were awesome, laid back, real, willing to sign autographs, etc. This is reportedly the footage that was on the local news but I have yet to GTS.
After the expo, it was obvi time for a little carb loading. Clearly one of the best parts of racing. Nothing like penne pasta with decadent vodka sauce and bread. Carb overload but isn't that the point? We went to an off the beaten path Italian restaurant called Luigi's . #TDF
Race morning rolled around, as it always does and we were concerned about temps and possible rain. I typically never wear anything on my head (unless it's freezing and then it's a head wrap) but somehow ended up with a visor due to fear of rain and my desire to avoid wearing sunglasses.
I ended up in shorts, a CRB Lulu tank, a Run Swifty Long sleeve tank and this Run Happy visor that I purchased at the expo. Best decision ever.
The temps changed constantly, based on altitude and I ended up taking this Run Swiftly on and off more than I can count!
We started lining up at 7:20 and I don't think I've ever been so close to the start line in a marathon/ half marathon setting. Kind of liking the small race thing. They did an great tribute to Boston and I definitely teared up. Following the national anthem, we were off!
The first mile or so consisted of us running in the city towards the mountains. By mile two, things started looking a little something like this... This incline is nothing compared to what we faced later but they wasted no time. Inclines right outta the gate!
We stayed with the half marathoners until right about mile 3 and split off. Then things started looking a little something like this...
You turn a corner, hope and pray you may be leveling off and nope. Another climb. NDB.
One of the things we loved about this race were the mile markers. Love the little messages at the bottom.
Here are Michelle and I after one of our first crazy, enormous climbs.
We were about mile 7 here and feeling good. 19ish miles to go. Eek.
We continued to run, pant, climb, and wonder what we had gotten ourselves into when we reached the top of Roanoke Mountain.
The aid stations, support, and fuel provided were awesome. Seriously. That was one of my biggest concerns going into what is technically a desolate marathon. However, we never really felt alone. Although we were out there a handful of times with no other runners in sight, there was always an aide station around the corner.
As we head down Roanoke Mountain, we level out for "maybe" a hot second and begin another climb into Mill Mountain.
Okay, so the funny thing is, we laughed as we looked at Star Mountain from our hotel. We laughed about what we had gotten ourselves into and said that even though this was a mountain marathon, there was no way they could make us run to the top of this mountain with the Star. Just no way. Here is a pic. from our hotel of what we thought was impossible.
And here is us the next day...
And the view from up there was absolutely breathtaking.
We stopped for fuel, obviously some photo ops, and geared up for the trek back down. Not sure which was harder. Running a steep decline or incline. I'm convinced that a lot of my post race physical ailments are almost a result of running extreme declines. Sounds crazy but it's amazing how difficult it was to hold the body up, move forward, and not collapse while gravity is pulling you forward.
Speaking of declines, a goofy little vid of us on the way back down.
Again, I somehow loved this crazy race. Speaking of crazy, there was a small group of runners who started at 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. They completed this marathon once prior to the official start of the real marathon and then joined us regular marathoners for the real race. What I'm trying to say is that they ran this TWICE!!!! What the what!? We met one of them on the course who ran with us for awhile. We couldn't get enough of his stories.
Stay tuned for Part 2!!!