Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!
About a week or so before heading to Roanoke for the Blue Ridge Marathon, I published a preview of the things I was excited for and a few things I wasn’t as excited about for this particular race. Figured it would be a good idea to recap my race weekend experience and revisit that list. I will recap my overall travel and lodging experience in a separate post soon, but spoiler alert – my AirBnB host was AWESOME.
The only thing I will say in THIS post regarding my travel is that 6 hours in a car followed by not nearly enough sleep isn’t helpful for a successful marathon. Sure, one can finish the event, but maybe not as well as one would like!
My homebase through AirBnB was less than a 10 minute walk to the start/finish line. This made race morning so very easy because I was concerned about crowds at the pre-race bib pick-up. My fears were incredibly unfounded, as I picked up my bib at 5:30am and was the only one there! I had time to walk back to the house, drop off the shirt I received (which I didn’t order – bonus!), re-evaluate what I was going to have with me as far as nutrition, music, etc, and head back to the start to meet up with some of my fellow BibRave Pros.
Even though I was traveling alone, it was awesome to know that I had a group of people that I could instantly bond with upon arrival. And while most of us had never met in person before race weekend, we hit it off as if we’ve known each other for years! Team BibRave was in full effect in Roanoke and one member of our crew attempted the DOUBLE MARATHON! After running the regular marathon, I think I’m good.
Once the race got started, we were CLIMBING (more like walking) no more than a mile into the 26.2 mile journey. Those mountains mean business and they take no prisoners. Woefully under prepared might be an understatement to describe my experience on those mountains, but I managed to get to the top of each one and the reward was well worth the effort.
Entering the Blue Ridge Parkway section of the race
Making our way up Roanoke Mountain – the 1st of 3 mountains on the Blue Ridge Marathon course
The reward that waited at top of Roanoke Mountain
The thing that got me through the race (aside from having some level of training for the distance) was the camaraderie with other runners. Ran with a handful of runners throughout the event and got the chance to learn where they’re from, why those individuals came to Roanoke, what motivates them to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Chatted with Lauren whose dad is challenging her to earn a BQ so they can run together at Boston in a year or two. I ran with Ron who was a local and was running his FIRST MARATHON EVER (pictured below).
Ron Butler (bib 668) and I as we approached the Mill Mountain Star near the halfway point of the Blue Ridge Marathon – his first marathon EVER!
My new best friends – the “moo-mosas” station at the halfway point, just after the Mill Mountain Star.
A few miles after Ron and the moo-mosas – right around mile 16.5…and at the base of what I would consider the most mentally and physically draining sections of the entire race…I linked up with Katja and Marion. We started talking…because it was easier than running at that particular point…and learned that we had a shared experience – living in North Carolina! Okay, I lived in NC for a few years and they live in NC now, but who cares?! That led to the next 5(ish) miles of having some pretty awesome people to share in the pain we were putting ourselves through! Ultimately, I had to drop back and let them push onward, but thanks to their humor and motivation (“let’s run to those three little shrubs!”), they made the hardest section of the course MUCH more bearable!
Tried to take a group photo at what we thought was the top of the Peakwood section. 1) Katja wasn’t quite ready – sorry! 2) It was DEFINITELY not the top.
Katja & Marion – darn good people!
From about mile 20.5 onward, the rest of the race was more of a walk for me. Mentally, I could have kept going and kept running. Physically, my LEGS were having none of that. There were glimmers of energy here and there, but for the most part, my running ended about 10k from the end. In any other race, I probably would have been devastated. At Blue Ridge, I accepted it and knew that I did what I came to do – get from point A to point B and FINISH.
Speaking of the finish, with less than a 1/3 of a mile to go, one of my fellow BibRave Pros, Brenda (2nd from left in the photo below) – who I thought was WAY ahead of me the entire race – snuck up on me, passed me, and egged me to go with her! Caught me completely off guard, but it definitely helped me get across that finish line with a smile.
Some of the BibRave Pros and some other new friends in the post-race VIP area. Thank goodness for free pizza.
REVISITING MY PRE-RACE PRO/CON LISTS
Not-as-excited #1 – The inevitable BONK.
Truthfully, this could have been worse if this race were a more typical marathon with rolling hills and a more average change in elevation. However, because of all the elevation change and the changes I had to make to my race day strategy, the BONK itself didn’t really rear its ugly head as it has in the past. It was more of a consistent process rather than a sudden smack in the face at mile 18-19. I guess that’s a good thing?
Not-as-excited #2 – Hills…I mean, FREAKING MOUNTAINS
Again, MOUNTAINS. And the excitement of the challenge was definitely GONE about midway up the first mountain incline. Knowing I’d have to do it again TWICE (even though on smaller mountains) was not something I was looking forward to doing.
AND LET’S TALK ABOUT PEAKWOOD. This is the last section of the course with a significant uphill (a la mountain) and it GOES ON FOREVER. AND EVER. AND EVER. This is, without a doubt, my least favorite section of the entire course. Thankfully, there is an end to that misery (and champagne!) and then it’s mostly downhill to the finish – but don’t be fooled, there are a FEW remaining hills (HILLS not mountains) before you’re done.
Not-as-excited #3 – The drive.
“This one, I did to myself.” -ME
The drive TO Roanoke wasn’t too bad. Almost exactly 6 hours door-to-door with no issues or delays. The drive BACK home took…well, a little bit longer. That’s not hard to imagine considering I just ran 26.2 miles and covered over 7000′ of elevation change! Pretty sure I stopped every hour or so, just to get out and walk/stretch. Think it took me almost 9 hours to get home!
In both legs of the drive, my GPS was spot on the whole way, listened to more podcast episodes than I ever have in one sitting, and jammed out to some classic 90’s pop – don’t judge. Major props to the BibRave Podcast, Joe Rogan Experience, The Negative Splits Podcast, and The Morning Shakeout Podcast for helping me pass the time
Excited #1 – New State.
This was the easy part – adding another state to my list of states in which I’ve completed a marathon. On top of that, Virginia certainly did not disappoint with its hospitality, friendliness, and stunning scenery!
Excited #1a – Running on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Wow, amazing, and unique – three words that barely scratch the surface of how awesome this experience was. The photos I took don’t even do the scenery justice. Go and drive part of the Blue Ridge Parkway if you have the opportunity to do so!
Excited #2 – Hills…I mean, MOUNTAINS
“I know – this one seems out of place. Hear me out though. What good is a race if it doesn’t offer a challenge? This course offers some pretty tough hills that will absolutely challenge my climbing ability as well as probably make my quads feel like someone took a meat tenderizer to them when it’s all said done.” -me, about 2 weeks before the race
Yeah…about that. Naive is an understatement when I look back on that quote. Those “hills” were freaking mountains and challenge me they did – like nothing else before them. The reward at the top of every climb was well worth the pain to get there…and trust me, there was pain…but damn it was hard! My legs, specifically my quads, felt as if someone took a baseball bat covered in aforementioned meat tenderizers and beat me up one side and back down the other. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!
Excited #3 – Bojangles Bo-Berry Biscuits.
I think the photo speaks for itself. 🙂
*** *** ***
Simply put, this would normally be a race I would avoid if only because of the massive elevation change. This is slightly reminiscent of why I chose to avoid a particular race in Cincinnati for so long before running it as well! However, I am so very glad I took a step out of my comfort zone – figuratively and literally – because there is just so much GOOD about this event. Don’t mistake the mountains for hills – trust me, they are mountains and they are tough. However, this race – while challenging – is rewarding in ways that are truly hard to put into words. A huge THANK YOU to Team BibRave for affording me the opportunity to run the Blue Ridge Marathon!
If you’re looking for a race that will challenge you and a race that has big race amenities, but a small race feel – head to Roanoke and run the Blue Ridge Marathon!
In the days following the Blue Ridge Marathon, I was able to head over to Athlinks and claim my race results. Athlinks allows me to keep all my race results in one location, compare my stats across multiple distances, download a digital finisher certificate (shareable on social), and even see how I compare against friends (read: followers) who might have been in the same race with me.
Check out my Athlinks stats and learn more about how I claim past results as well as why I enjoy using Athlinks. It’s incredibly easy to use and it’s a lot of fun to see races you might have forgotten about pop up in your results feed! So while you’re taking a look around over there, set up your own Athlinks account and start claiming your results!