I can barely walk today. That about sums up how my body appreciates what I did on Saturday. I returned to Roanoke, VA to run the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Half Marathon. Aptly dubbed America’s Toughest Road Race, the half course navigates over 2 mountains. Just like last year, I am more sore than I ever have been running any of the full marathons I’ve done, which leaves me in even more awe of the runners who completed the full marathon and the double marathon! The discomfort I feel leaves me feeling a bit embarrassed, since it was only a half! I’m hoping that by tomorrow, I will feel more normal.
The ambassador experience this year felt more robust than last year. I’m sure emerging from Covid helped! But in addition to free entry to the race of our choice, we got VIP access on race day, free tickets to see The Wallflowers for their Saturday night concert, a super nice quarter zip, free entry into the Slow-K Sunday, and lots of exposure on social media. I really appreciate all they did for us! With so many of us taking advantage of the VIP area, I got to meet several other ambassadors, including a local Richmond runner who is involved in the Richmond Road Runners Club! It’s a small world.
This weekend was great, though! My husband’s cousin, who lives just a couple of miles from the race start, was a gracious host.
I drove down Friday afternoon, making my way over Afton Mountain on 64, then to 81 all the way to the expo. It was a beautiful drive, with mountain views for days, and the colors of spring emerging: bright greens of new leaves, white flowers of the dogwood trees, and the stunning light purples of the red buds. The expo took advantage of this beauty, as it was outdoors. I really liked this setup because it felt more like a festival!
Weather for race day seemed a bit iffy all week, with rain predicted. I was mentally preparing myself to get wet. But, luckily, there was a dramatic shift in the forecast overnight, and the chance of rain plummeted to 15%. It never rained a drop! I’m positive it’s because I deliberately left my sunglasses in the car. I still had my Boco Gear visor, though! Can’t run without it!
This year felt a bit more relaxed, as Covid restrictions in place last year were not necessary. Elmwood Park, the site of the finish line festival, was open to anyone. Last year, only participants could enter the start/finish areas, and masks were expected. The VIP area was nice! It was great to have a special place to hang out and relax before and after the race, on the patio of the library overlooking the race festival. (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love books, so the library felt like home.) We also had access to real bathrooms. All of which was much appreciated!
I started the race with my friend Tina, but she was having a great day and left me after the first mile. We had met another runner at the start line named Anna, and I struck up a conversation with her. We ran together for a while, up and down Mill Mountain, through the Greenway, and then up Peakwood. I struggled so much up Peakwood mountain, and I don’t remember it feeling that tough last year. This is where my new friend had to take off. But after running down Peakwood, the course got easier. I was fueled bySport Beans and SaltStick fast chews, which I definitely needed! It was humid, and it got a bit warmer than forecasted. In the end, my time was about the same as last year.
I’m still absolutely awestruck by the views on this course, the beautiful neighborhoods, and the crowd support.
I really wanted to go to the concert Saturday night, but I was spent! I stayed in.
Sunday morning was the Slow-K presented by Altra Running. I didn’t do this last year and then deeply regretted not going. The mug was amazing. This year’s mug was also cute! With coffee, donuts, music, Altra shoe demos, and goats! The goats were there to support this year’s race weekend theme, Be the Goat, and were super cute! And if you didn’t get your fill of donuts at the start, there were race officials on bikes delivering them along the route! The 5k walk was a great way to work out some of the stress from the day before. Tina and I struck up a conversation with a married couple who live in Roanoke. All in all, a highly pleasant way to start the day!
I returned home yesterday afternoon, making a pit stop in Farmville to have lunch with my daughter. The drive back via 460 was far less crowded than the interstates, albeit a bit longer. But it’s nice to be home!
I’ll be back for another year of challenge for sure! The mountains are my happy place, so it was great to have an excuse to be among them for a weekend. For my runner friends, if you live anywhere near Roanoke, I highly recommend putting one of the Blue Ridge races on your bucket list.
Ok, runners! What races are on your bucket list? I’d love to hear about it!
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.