I was really unsure coming into this race. After starting the year with one issue after the other – hip pain, plantar fasciitis, and then this nagging soft tissue inflammation on the top of my foot the last 8+ weeks – you can see why I was not super thrilled about running a marathon. Despite this, I was super pumped about the race. It was small…80 people small, soft surface and no frills (no medal or t-shirt – I did get a paper weight!). Up until the Thursday before, the chance of rain was hanging around at 80%. But the day before the chance of snow/rain mix was removed. Yeah!
I opted for an early start at 7 am to get a jump on things and in case there ended up being some power walking going on. That insured I would finish before 1 pm. Plus, I wanted to grab a shower before my late check out at the hotel and my drive to Charlotte. I left the hotel before the sunrise and headed the 3 miles to the start line. I got my bibbed marked with an E for early starter, started my watch (I had to keep my own time), and headed out.
The course was beautiful and visually interesting. The first two miles were an out and back on the road I drove in on. Once I completed that, I hung a left on the Virginia Creeper Trail and began the journey on the trail. It was a crushed gravel and dirt trail that was enveloped by budding dogwoods and still bear trees. There weren’t many hills, but the bridges I ran over were really beautiful as they sat high above creeks and rivers meandering through the mountains. This out and back was 7 miles total. I looped back by the start and headed on another out and back, this one longer. During this stint, I ran similar terrain but also crossed through some cow fields, farms, and huge rolling hillside landscapes. Minus some of the farm smells, it was great! The turnaround came at the 13.5 mile mark. All the aid stations along the way were staffed by super nice ladies and since I wasn’t in a hurry, I had the chance to stop, chat, and thank each of them. It made for a nice breather in the midst of the run. At the 18 mile mark, I crossed back by the start line, where a nice crowd of folks had gathered to cheer on the runners. I had to complete the first out and back again and then add a .6 out and back to finish off the 26.2. Despite seeing some of the areas four times, I loved it. I’m not usually one to like double out and back courses, but the soft surface, nice faces, and breath-taking views made this one okay.
All in all, I would put this race in my top 5. I love a good laid-back, no frills marathon. This one was run super well, all the folks involved were amazing, and the Creeper Trail did not disappoint. As I was running, I kept waiting for the tendon on the top of my foot to flare up, but it never did. I kept a really easy pace, finishing in 4:43:05. It was by no means something to write home about, but considering I wasn’t experiencing the top of the foot pain that I had the past few long runs, I’ll take it. I’m sure stopping to chat and getting water at every stop didn’t help my time, but I was there to enjoy the scenery of Virginia and that is exactly what I did! Another state was checked off the list and now I can set my sights to running two Ultras this summer – Iowa in May and Nevada in July. Bring on the distance and the trails!