Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blue Ridge Marathon Race Report

The Blue Ridge Marathon takes place in downtown Roanoke Virginia and the surrounding mountains.  If a person decides to run one, why not start with the toughest road marathon in the nation?  My thoughts exactly.  This one featured three major mountain climbs for 3,620 feet rise 7,234 feet change.  Just some foothills if you ask me.  My legs will tell you another story however.

Jennifer and I drove down Friday and met up with Iris and her husband Barefoot Josh.  His race report is here.  We met for dinner after our packet pickup where I peppered BFJ with questions about marathon running, fueling, chicken raising and such.  I'm sure the newbie level of questioning raised doubt in his mind as to my ability to finish.  More on that later.

We made it an early evening so I could mentally prepare and get a good nights sleep.  We checked into our motel and were in bed by 9:30.  It happened to be bike week in Roanoke so we were serenaded all night by Harleys revving and gunning with the bravado of a band of teenagers.  Did I mention I didn't get to sleep until 3am?  I woke at 5 am in order to fuel up and let it settle for a couple of hours.  I went to the 24 hour greasy spoon right next door for bacon, eggs and hash-browns.  And it was greasy.

We got to the race and parked on the street at about 7 and met up with BFJ and Iris.  She was running the half marathon.  I stretched, a little, tryed to stay dry in the steady drizzle, and warmed up by running up and down the street a bit.  The start was delayed by 8 minuets to allow the police to get into position.  And then we were off.

I started about a third of the way back in the pack with BFJ.  He sprinted ahead of me within a block and was off to the races.  The first mile was downhill and exciting as I realized I was actually doing this.  The distance didn't intimidate me, but the hills did.  Luckily the clouds obscured the top of the mountains so they didn't look so bad.

After the first mile, we started to climb.  I ran the hills until about mile 6 where I started alternating running with small walking sections.  We topped Roanoke mountain at about mile 7.5 and then had a welcomed downhill for the next 4.  The next climb was to the top of star mountain, a 1.5 mile clime to milepost 13.  Then came another downhill to mile 16.  I was surprised ant how I was holding up, and I was ahead of my 5 mph goal.  Then came the climb in the subdivision to the top of rock mountain.  This was the cruelest climb.  It felt steeper and longer than the others.  And the volunteers kept telling us we were at the top.  They lied.  The top seemed to never come.  But it did come.  And then another steady downhill.  There was a party at about mile 21.  They had beer, bloody marys, chocolate and a band.  I opted for beer and chocolate.  A little bit of a snickers bar never tasted so good.  I also took a jolly roger.  Yum.  My stomach wasn't too happy with my choice, but that didn't last long.  Jennifer met me at mile 22 where I shucked the shoes and socks and went barefoot from there on in.  My pace immediately got faster and my stride form improved - at least that's what I envisioned.  Did I mention it was raining?  The wind and rain blew hard on one side of the mountains and it was warm and pleasant on the other.  But by mile 22, the wind and rain picked up considerably.  At mile 24, the volunteers told us the race was called by the director and we should stop.  WTF.  I was instantly heartbroken.  When he told us to stop, I slowed a bit, but decided, at this point, they would have to catch me.  I was going to finish.  I looked behind and was uplifted by the two runners behind that had made the choice.  A half mile later, a ambulance came by and they told me I needed to stop running and get in.  Are you kidding me?  Again,  I just kept running.  Then I wondered about the race volunteers that were providing direction at every turn.  Without them, I would not know which way to go.  I would have been able to find may way back, Roanoke is not a confusing city, but would I have made the proper turns to complete the full race.  The guy that finished after me was a great help morally.  We ran together and supported each other to the last stretch.  I was grateful for his company and realized the importance of all those volunteers who directed us along the way.  They stood out in the rain and gale-force winds to help us along.  The home stretch was in sight.  I was emotionally wrecked from the effort and the possible dnf.  I picked up my pace at the end and finished strong.

This was an excellent race, a great challenge, and a very well supported event.  There were a lot of aid stations, way to much gu, and needed support at every turn.

So, here are the stats:
Time: 5:21:30 a leisurely little run
Overall:  192/226 didn't want to hog the spotlight
A/G :25/28 did I mention I'm slow?
Funmeter: four stars

Post run, we headed to the Y to get a shower.  Jennifer was as soaked as I.  We found our car in a flooded portion of the street.  Water was above the bottom of the doors and had entered the cab.  I got in, started it up and got out of there.  We headed to a sucker before the shower to get out what we could.  No I have wet carpets to deal with.

We met up with BFJ and Iris at the awards ceremony because he won his age group!  He didn't walk a bit.  He didn't even stop to use the bathroom.  He didn't hold it either.  A very committed runner - or should he be committed?

Our medals and BFJ holding his A/G award.

The four of us went to a late lunch at a Indian restaurant - excellent - and then we headed home.  Before we got on the road, we toured around the residential area of rock mountain that I had just climbed.  Beautiful upscale homes with wonderful views of downtown Roanoke.

This was an experience well worth the effort.  Thanks again goes to Barefoot Josh for the free entry.


  1. It was great to meet you in meatspace! I wasn't worried about you at all. Well, not until frogs started falling from the sky. Great slog, and think of how easy your next one will be.

  2. Congrats on your first! Nothing like disregarding race officials to finish a marathon in a biblical storm. What's next? Cheers!

  3. Awesome accomplishment John, I can only imagine the pride and excitement you felt by completing a marathon.