The best discount rate offered for Blue Ridge Marathon is available during Black Friday weekend. I am huge fan of this race, which is also why I wanted to be a race ambassador. Since this rate is so good, I wanted to share my experience so you wouldn’t miss out on a great Spring race.
One of the reasons I keep coming back to Roanoke is the experience. Most race experiences start on race day. But in Roanoke, the excitement starts the day prior to race day. The race is also very conveniently set up. The expo is downtown in the Market Building, which is blocks from Elmwood Park. Elmwood Park is where the finish line is located, the free pre-race concert, and a post-race concert. Because it is free, many locals and visitors are at the outside amphitheater enjoying beer and food trucks at the park. The starting line is also perpendicular to Elmwood Park, which makes Elmwood Park a central point to the race.
Also, the post-race concert is a ticketed event, which means you’ll have to buy one if interested. Racers do have an opportunity to buy a discounted ticket.
When a race trademarks itself as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon,” it is hard to convince you it will be easy to complete. Also, a marathon itself takes training and dedication. And the 10-K and Half offer a challenge greater than your typical 10-K and Half races. But even though the course is more challenging, the course rewards you with stunning views throughout the race. Below is a quick recap of what to expect.
The 10K course
My first 10K race was Blue Ridge Marathon’s Star-K offering. This was also my first visit to Roanoke, which also added to the excitement. The race starts with the other race options on Jefferson Street in downtown Roanoke. Which means the first mile or two will be the most people you will see on the course. It is a welcome sight, as the temperature are cool at the race start. In the distance, you will see the highest point on the 10-K course, the Roanoke Star atop Mill Mountain.
The first three miles are up hill on your way to the Roanoke Star. At mile one, you will find a water stop and a couple bathrooms. As I mentioned, all the races start at the same time. So you’ll want to take care of business prior, if you can. If you can hold it longer, around mile two the marathon splits and the half and 10-K head up Mill Mountain. There are more bathrooms here and I was able to quickly stop and go here.
After the first mile, the race starts to get beautiful. You leave the Roanoke neighborhoods and enter a canopy of trees to cheer you on. Depending on your comfort on hills, you may want to take an easier pace the first three miles until the Star. I kept a nice pace going, but I know I slowed when I finally saw the Star. More to take photos, at least that’s what I tell my ego.
In Mill Mountain Park is a nice water spot and volunteers will take your photo with the Star in the background. From here, it is an easier race as you travel switchbacks downhill. About mile marker 4, there is a nice house that sets up a water spot, too.
As you finish the decent, your fellow runners conquering the Half marathon will want to trade you bibs. Their about halfway done and another mountain in their future. You’ll see the half marathon’s turn before you cross the Walnut Avenue bridge. The remaining route is fairly flat within downtown Roanoke. The finish line wraps up in Elmwood Park with an awesome crowd cheering you on.
After completing the 10K, I quickly redacted a promise I made myself that I would never run a marathon. I returned the following year to run my first marathon in Roanoke.
What convinced me was a repost on Blue Ridge Marathon’s Instagram Account. The view on Roanoke Mountain was just too good for me not to experience for myself. Of course I said, this would be the only marathon I would do.
The marathon traverses three mountains during the 26.2 mile run. The first mountain, Roanoke Mountain, is the only mountain traveled by marathoners in the Blue Ridge series. After the mile 2 split of all the racers, the marathon course really opens up. It is here you get to experience one of the best first half’s of a marathon course. Running on the Blue Ridge Parkway, running up Roanoke Mountain, and the return back to run up Mill Mountain and see the Roanoke Star keeps your mind occupied off tackling 26 miles. It is also these miles that reward you for tackling the toughest challenge. You’ll also want to bring a camera on this part, as you may want to capture a view or two. Also, volunteers will take your pictures, too.
After the first half, the mountain many put off is what many call “Peakwood”. Named for the road you travel on to get to the top winds through neighborhoods with views of Roanoke below. The mountain is strategically placed around the high teens in regards to miles, which is a point where your mental fortitude is tested with your physical condition.
I was mentally prepared for Peakwood, but walking did occur more frequently here. However, while running toward Roanoke Mountain I was informed of another hill marathoners exclaim for, “Jesus Saves Hill”. At first, you think hills are nothing; we are climbing mountains here. But again, a hill at mile 24 can seem like a mountain. It is here you discover “Jesus Saves.”
I plan on tackling the Half Marathon to complete the traditional Blue Ridge Marathon grand slam (although, they just added a Double Marathon officially this year!) The race starts and follows the 10-K until it splits after Mill Mountain to head toward Peakwood. After tackling Peakwood, you descend down to finish the half marathon at Elmwood Park.
Now you are psyched about taking on the Blue Ridge’s challenge. Don’t worry, both the 10-K and marathon were my first ever races for those distance and I finished. You can do it too! Here are few things that helped me complete the challenge.
It’s okay to walk. I was nervous doing the Blue Ridge Marathon, which was coupled with tackling this as my first marathon. When I noticed runners slowing to walk up Roanoke Mountain, I followed suit (the sign “steep inclines ahead” sort of clued me to walk, too).
Bring a camera. Some runners will argue a camera is a nuisance during races. I agree, but this is not a normal race. Blue Ridge Marathon is an experience. If you decide to snap photos, be considerate of your fellow runners before stopping short.
Study the course. This might seem obvious. However, if you have friends and family, you may want to strategically place them at certain spots on the course. For instance, the temperatures were warmer after finishing the first half of the marathon. But I was wearing a really nice race jacket (a Blue Ridge Marathon jacket!) Luckily, my friend was cheering me on at mile 12 and I was able to pass my jacket along. You may have other quirks that you look for like bathrooms or water spots. They place a lot of these before descents, which you may want to consider in your race plan.
As promised, here is the code. It expires Sunday, so it’s oaky to run (not walk) to sign-up.
See you there!
Blue Ridge Marathon
April 22, 2017