Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Sunday, October 5, 2008

2008 Medoc Mountain Marathon

The Medoc Mountain Marathon is held in near Hollister, NC or sort of North-East of Durham. It is a very rural location, somewhat like the DuPont Marathon. The drive from the Burke County area is roughly 4 to 4 1/2 hours so it's likely one you'd need to travel to on Friday evening. It was held on October 4, 2008 and gun time was 7:00 a.m. for a nice cool start. There is also a ten-miler that used some of the same course as the marathon.

We elected to camp in the park the night before. You have until 8:00 p.m. to enter the park at which time, they lock the gates. You really need to be there before 7:00 if you want to be able to see to set up your tents without using flashlights and car headlights. Camping isn't a bad option if you like to do it. The sites are just about a five minute (or less) walk from the start/finish area, it wasn't crowded, and on a clear night like we had, you could see many more stars than in the Burke County area since light pollution was very low in this area (no major cities nearby.) It's $15 for a non-electric site and $20 for an electric site. The race organizers also arranged a group site that could accomodate a number of tents. I don't know how many took advantage of that offer, or what it cost, but I am certain if it wasn't free, it was less than the individual site we used. If you want to camp right where the trail cuts through the campground, take site #23. We just happened to pick it and later realized that the marathon route would lead us right to the car three times (it was a three-loop course.) Great for spot leaving clothing, water, etc... You also have close access to bathrooms and showers which were in very clean condition.

I will note that our GPS took us through a town named "Warrenton" about ten or fifteen miles before we reached the park. We elected to have dinner here in an Italian restaurant named Milano's. It is on the corner just as you turn left off of Main Street onto (I believe) Highway 42--I'll double check this. Based on the direction we were going, it turned out to be our last good opportunity to get dinner unless we had planned to bring our own food and eat in the park. It was pretty good. Not quite Geppeto's, but we did clean our plates.

Now, onto the race. Anyone who has run one of the Triple Lakes races (marathon or 40-miler) will find this course very familiar. It's a twisting, rooty, and rocky course through the woods. It is not extremely hilly, though there are a few that you may walk (especially the second and third times around.) There are a number of bridges and boardwalks and while there is typically enough room to pass--with care--there are only a few areas where a car could drive. There is a pretty good map on the marathon website ( but it is a little hard to follow as there were three mini-loops you ran three times each. Kind of a distorted triple-cloverleaf. I would highly recommend trail shoes if you can run in them. The footing is tricky and you'll step on enough roots and rocks to where you'll be thankful for the harder soles. There are a few staircases down steep embankments which will slow you down a bit, but you'll never be going as fast as you would on pavement anyway.

It's hard to compare the course in degree of difficulty to others I've run. My time at Medoc was only about six minutes faster than my Black Mountain time, but Black Mountain has far fewer turns and it was a bit cooler than Medoc. My times at the hillier DuPont were both faster than Medoc and the weather was probably similar. I did not run the marathon at Triple Lakes, but I would imagine since my race used the marathon course, times would be similar. Ironically, the Triple Lakes marathon was on the same day as Medoc.

The post-race food should have pleased about everyone: pizza, fruit, brownies, fudge, cookies, gummy bears, doughnut holes, danishes, rice krispy treats, and more!

The organizers and volunteers were outstanding, keeping everyone well informed and doing their best to make sure everyone had a good time. The shirt was great, even though I don't care for long sleeve. It was a coolmax-style, steel-grey shirt with the runner/leaf logo you see on their website. They also gave us a nice, coolmax-style cap. The medallion was the largest I have received and after suggesting that a co-runner hang it from his mirror for the drive home, I wondered if it might pull the mirror off...

My only criticisms would be minor and one was actually addressed during the race.
* Early on, one of the turns (the one I missed) wasn't marked clearly enough for runners who are focused on the ground ten to fifteen feet ahead of them. If I hadn't been so far behind the pack in front of me, I would have known to turn, but as I was alone, I missed the turn and added about an extra two minutes before someone came running down the trail and told me I had missed the turn. The next two times around the course, however, it was very clearly marked.
* This isn't really about the race, but the organizers had crafted an elaborate story about the Legend of Medoc that we kind of followed in e-mails and website information leading up to the race, but they didn't really keep it up at the race. I thought it was a clever story and was hoping to see giant footprints in the woods or someone dressed as Medoc at the finish area, but all they had were a few Medoc heads (signs) on some of the trees. Again, this didn't make me enjoy the race any less, but I was hoping to see them continue to build on the legend they had created leading up to the race.

It's a long drive and a tough course, but I would consider doing it again--maybe camping two nights so that the next day we could see the parts of the park we missed during the race.

Medoc Mountain Marathon
Medoc Mountain State Park

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