Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 Run for the Red Marathon

On Saturday, September 18th, at 7:00 a.m., several local runners took part in the Run for the Red Marathon and Half-Marathon. It was a cool, slightly foggy/overcast morning and those of us who had run the Valle Crucis 15-miler and 7-miler (The Cub) knew that it would not be an easy marathon course--if easy can be used to describe any 26 mile event...

The races begin and end at the Valle Crucis Elementary School. The half marathon actually starts at 7:30, but I'm not sure why. The two races actually start in opposite directions, so I guess it's to group the finishers of the two races a bit closer together. Given, however, that the marathon has a LOT more climb, most of the half-marathoners had gone home before half of the marathoners finished. This made for a somewhat low key awards ceremony. Most people just requested their award and went home. The half-marathon awards were announced once all the age group slots were filled.

Some of this is apparent by looking at the course profile, but the first .5 to .75 miles is pretty flat, then you begin a climb of approximately 1800' to mile 6. Once you reach the high point on the course (about 4400' elevation) you'll start a brief, steep downhill. There's one more uphill of significance on this portion of the course, but nothing like the first six miles. Once you've reached mile 9, it's pretty much all downhill until mile 16, with most of the downhill being gradual. At mile 16, you join the half-marathon course that parallels the Watauga River. You'll stay with the half-marathoners until about mile 20, running slightly uphill (and upstream.) At around mile 20, you'll take a bridge across the Watauga River onto "The Cub" course. This section starts out fairly flat. There is more traffic on this part of the course than on the first twenty miles, partially because it's later in the day. Until mile 22, nothing really gets your attention in terms of hills, but then you do begin to climb and hit a hill around mile 23 that brings most runners to a walk/hike. At the top of this hill (mile 24) you'll find the second to last aid station. Be sure to get your legs under you because you've got a really steep downhill for the next mile or so.

Your last climb is a small rise at about mile 25.5 or so, right before you turn back onto Broadstone Road and head to the school. This stretch is the main road into Valle Crucis, so there will be traffic. I had several pass me in the last half mile or so, but they were going slowly. It most likely gets busier as the day wears on.

The course overall is pretty rural and scenic. A lot of the surface is packed gravel (where it's more dust/dirt than rock) but the first and last parts are pavement. I had only one dog encounter and he stopped when I turned toward him. Others commented on different dogs but I'm not aware of any major problems. As far as aid stations go, most seemed to be manned by a sorority from App. State, though I couldn't tell which sorority, and everyone was enthusiastic and encouraging. One station--around mile 11--was unmanned when I went through, but it didn't matter a lot. I just filled up my bottle from the cooler. They had Gu gels in quite a few flavors--some of which I had never seen.

There was not a clock at the finish line, nor did I wear my watch, but I think someone was writing down the times as people came in. They posted the tab from the bottom of the bibs on a board with the age groups, so you can tell pretty quickly if you placed. Awards were pottery vases for the top three male and female overall and medallions with red, white, or blue ribbons for the age group awards. I guess there were no finisher's medallions.

Volunteers grilled hamburgers and there were lots of chips, drinks, and snacks at the finish area. The t-shirt was short-sleeved and white cotton with a nice logo on the front. I was quite happy to sit in the shade at the finish, but if you're shopping-inclined, the Mast General Store is just a short walk down the road.

I would do this marathon again. It falls in the busy season for races so running this might mean you have to give up another race. But if you want a challenging course in a nice area and an event that is well put together, you should put this one on your calendar.

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