Since this race began 5 years ago, I have wanted run it! Initially just offering a marathon, marathon relay, and 8k option, Flat Out Events added a half marathon last year. Since I typically run a winter/spring half every year, I knew this was my race! So when they ran a special for $60 for the half, I registered. I actually had an issue in this process, and ended up accidentally registering twice! I messaged Flat Out events via Facebook, and they responded very quickly. The issue was resolved the next day. I was impressed!
Flat Out events is based in my hometown of Newport News, VA. They organize several races each year, including the Christmas Dash in December at Busch Gardens and a 50k in October featuring the Noland Trail. One City is designed as a point to point race, with the full marathon starting in Newport News Park, the largest city park in the United States east of the Mississippi, and ending downtown at the Victory Arch. (Newport News is actually 23 miles long!) The half marathon follows the same route beginning at the halfway point at Menchville High School. Because of this, both races have a 7 hour time limit by default.
The original plan for this race weekend was to run it with my best friend, but she had a family emergency, so plans changed! I’m grateful to still have family in the area and a free place to stay, so this made the race weekend easy.
Here’s my review of the race. I’ll start with the expo. Although very small, every vendor had something good to give away. It was held at the Holiday Inn Newport News/Hampton, conveniently located right off the interstate and right down the road from where I grew up! Getting in and out was a breeze.
The website for this event was very thorough. They have an app for spectators to follow their runners, which my brother used to track me, and the site itself had all the information you need, including course maps and a parking map. Since it’s a point to point race, you park downtown at the finish and take a bus to the start of your race. Parking was free and plentiful for participants. This is important to me, because parking for a race is always my biggest stressor! Race volunteers were super helpful with both directing parking and where to go for the shuttle buses, also making sure you get on the right bus! I’m grateful that I got to meet up with one of my friends from Richmond to start the day’s adventure together!
For the start of the half marathon at Menchville High School, they actually had the school open. This meant you could stay warm inside and use actual toilets, even though there were plenty of porta potties as well. They had both gyms open. I wore a throw away shirt to keep warm at the start, and I didn’t really need it because we were allowed this luxury. The school was also an exchange point for those running the marathon relay.
The race started at 7am. I really love having the early start! It was chilly at 28 degrees, but warmed up into the 30’s later in the morning. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather, with low humidity and beautiful sunshine.
Since I’m familiar with Newport News, I enjoyed running past places I remembered from my childhood. The race transitioned fairly quickly out of the neighborhood surrounding Menchville High and onto Warwick Blvd. The best part of the course for me started at the campus of Christopher Newport University, then taking you into neighboring Mariner’s Museum Park. You pass the trail head for the Noland Trail, then head to the James River. The only really significant hills are in the park. You then transition back into the Hidenwood neighborhood, crossing the Lion’s Bridge before heading back onto Warwick Blvd. This takes you through historic Hilton Village as you make your way downtown.
Things I learned on the course? Todd Stadium looks exactly the same as when I was in high school, Newport News Public Schools took over the building my orthodontist once occupied, Hilton Village is just as charming as I remember, and the valedictorian of my high school class is running for the school board (I saw several campaign signs on the course!) I was also reminded of how delicious Skittles are when running (thank you to whoever it was in Hidenwood who was passing those out!)
Around mile 11, a race official on a bike approached me. He told me I was doing a great job, then proceeded to politely ask me to move to the right, as the race leaders of the marathon were about to pass. I felt simultaneously inspired and humiliated. In all, 4 male marathoners passed me. That means they ran sub-2:30 marathons! The top 3 leaders had police escorts on motorcycles. Folks, if you are in this league of runners, this is special. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race where the leaders had this VIP treatment. The job of these escorts seemed to be to make sure these runners could focus solely on their performance, not dodging slower half marthoners like me! Maybe they did this because the courses overlapped, but I was impressed.
Finally reaching downtown, I found myself feeling extraordinarily grateful that I didn’t sign up for the full! I was ready to be done. The water stop at mile 12 was absolutely phenomenal, by the way. The volunteers here cheered the loudest, and they made me feel like a rock star! And when I approached the turn at the gentle downhill finish, I heard the cheers of my family! My brother, sister-in-law, and niece were waiting for me! And the race announcer called my name as I crossed the finish. That was awesome!
I will absolutely run this race again. The course wasn’t too hilly. There were several gentle inclines to keep things interesting, but nothing Richmond runners can’t handle! It was well organized with a huge NNPD presence on the course. Crowd support was sporadic, but those who braved the cold were enthusiastic! The food at the finish included bagels from Panera and beer, although I forgot all about my 2 free beers until I got home, which made me sad. Also, with only 2,700 participants between all the races, you never felt claustrophobic.
The Marathon winner was supposed to run a race in Japan next week. Because of the coronavirus, he decided to change his plans, and he found One City. His story is featured in the Daily Press.
One City Marathon is a Boston qualifying event, so hopefully it will continue to grow!
Have you run any of the Newport News One City races? What other spring events are on your calendar? I’d love to hear about it!