Chessie Trail Marathon 2022: Race Recap

“I’ll meet you at the cow!”

This is one phrase you may not typically hear from your running partner during a marathon. But we did encounter quite a few of these majestic creatures during the race. They were mostly curious and/or unbothered by our presence. 

The cow patties, on the other hand, were not so majestic. Those kept you on your toes, as they often punctuated the divots in the trail where it was most convenient to place your feet. 

To be fair, we were warned about the cows ahead of time, and in particular, to not get between a mother and her baby. A point I clearly understood!

For my fall marathon, I chose to take on a smaller race, the Chessie Trail Marathon in Lexington, VA, which is in the middle of the Blue Ridge mountains. The mountains are definitely my happy place, so I was excited to run a different kind of marathon in the midst of so much beauty. 

This was my 10th marathon, and perhaps my most challenging. Considering that I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2019, which began in a monsoon and ended in sweltering heat and humidity, that’s saying a lot. But it’s done! 

Positives from this race? 

  • I got my money’s worth. I finished 15 minutes before the course officially closed in last place. With only about 50 marathoners and as slow as I’ve been running lately, it wasn’t hard to do. 
  • The shirt. I love the long sleeve technical shirt for this race. Simply designed and in a fabulous light aqua color, I will definitely wear this a lot!
  • The scenery. This was a rail trail, so fairly flat. Some rail trails I’ve run have little to no scenery, but this one was different. We ran along the Maury River for most of the route, and it was beautiful. We were also surrounded by mountains. And although peak fall colors were earlier this month, the leaves were still pretty. 
  • The wildlife! Besides cows, we saw squirrels, chipmunks, wild turkeys, and deer. For the record, turkeys do fly. Sort of. And the deer just jumped on the trail with you. Crazy stuff!
  • The crew. The volunteers at this race were really supportive, which was very helpful since there weren’t many spectators.

With a race that took me this long, there were some negatives:

  • It’s four out and backs. Not my favorite route format, especially when you bypass the finish line 3 times. It was so hard to not give up at the half-marathon mark. My running partner, Becky, carried me mentally through most of this race.
  • The cow patties. Tough to dodge, as previously mentioned. 
  • Aid stations had nothing salty! I appreciated the water and orange and banana slices, but I wish they had had potato chips or pretzels to accompany these!
  • Little to no crowd support. But this is to be expected at a trail race.

Some things that worked out for this race were just luck. We had fantastic weather! It was really chilly at the start, so Becky and I went to Walmart the night before and bought mylar blankets from the camping section for about $3 each. This was a great decision and something I will definitely buy again. They folded up super small and fit nicely in our hydration packs to use next race. Temps started in the 40’s, warming up to 60 degrees toward the end. It was mostly cloudy, which I actually love for running. 

Clearly, though, this was not my day for racing. My right knee started hurting before we hit double digits. And even though I’d taped my knee to help prevent this, it still happened. This race just hurt. Everywhere. But considering that I had COVID 3 months ago and struggled for weeks, that I missed a few training runs because we lost a family member, and that I had a cold all week, I’m surprised I finished!

I would not recommend this race as your first marathon. I think it’s super important to have that big race experience for your first marathon, as that crowd support is amazing and so helpful mentally for runners new to this distance. But for folks that get overwhelmed by crowds, this may be a great race for you. Just be prepared for that mental challenge of the course setup. 

The town of Lexington is so quaint! Home of Virginia Military Institute, the downtown area is filled with cute stores, locally owned restaurants, and even a local running store. The ladies we met at Lex Running Shop were super nice. I highly recommend stopping by if you ever visit the town. Surrounded by mountains, the scenery is stunning. 

I think this race is a one and done for me. It’s not that it wasn’t pretty or unorganized. I just had a tough time mentally, and I’m not sure I can overcome that if I tried again. It is a challenge that I’m glad I did, though!

That being said, I might be tempted to run one of the shorter distances they offer, especially the half marathon. There’s also a 10k and a 5k, so this could really be a family event!


Do you run a marathon in the fall? If so, what has been your favorite? Mine will forever be Richmond, but now that I coach with Sports Backers, I can’t run this race. I’ll be on the course to support runners! If you plan to run Richmond, let me know! 

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Published by annecreates

I am a physical therapist, wife, mom, runner, artist, and vegan. I'm passionate about helping others find wellness, speaking about the human experience, and in fighting for social justice. Assistant Coach for the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team. Current ambassador for: Boco Gear, SaltStick, SPIbelt, Goodr, Noxgear, and Switch4Good.

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