Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2011 New River Marathon

In what has become a string of inagural marathons in North Carolina lately, the folks up in Ashe County decided they'd like to host one around the New River.

Unlike some other first-year events held in relatively low population areas (Valle Crucis Run For the Red and Ridge To Bridge being two examples) this event had an incredible turnout. Pre-race day registration had 265 signed up for the marathon, 506 for the half-marathon, and 98 for the 5-K. Actual turnout and finishers was a bit lower (197, 432, and 104, respectively) but still very good for a first effort.

This report is only about the marathon since the courses were a bit different (aside from length) for each race.

The biggest negative of the event was that it was a victim of its own success. Runners driving in found traffic backed up pretty far as cars slowly pulled into the grassy fields that served as a parking lot. We were set to arrive fairly early but needed every bit of the extra fifteen minutes they gave us by postponing the start.

The start/finish area is located beside a restaurant in Brownwood, NC (between Todd and Fleetwood.) The race itself begins on a large, concrete bridge that spans the New River. The course is basically a figure eight in which you are running along the New River for quite a few miles in both directions and you make loops on each side of the river. It's in these loops, that head away from the river, where you find your elevation gain. In truth, aside from two short stretches around mile 16, the hills weren't that bad--especially compared to some other courses. Though my time was almost the exact same as it was at Valle Crucis, other factors slowed me down at New River. I think most people would find it to be a similar, but faster course. It's mostly pavement with a few stretches of gravel/dirt.

Aid stations were water and Gatorade at first and then started including Hammer Gels. I did not see if there was anything like bananas, etc... The volunteers at the stations were friendly and the cups were much larger (and filled more) than in most races. That was fine by me, but I wondered if the volunteers were told to fill them so much or did so out of enthusiasm. I ran almost the entire race with a friend and that really helped on the long, straight sections along the New River. It's in these areas where you can sometimes see people who are pretty far ahead of you. The final few miles are run upstream so there is a slight rise but nothing that will really bother you. The trickiest part is actually the finish area--if you are a bit light-headed from all that running. You go down off the road into a grassy field that is a bit bumpy. While a fall would not hurt (soft dirt and thick grass) getting back up at mile 26.1 might be a struggle.

The race was chip timed at the finish, but had a gun start. The finish area had the usual fare of water, bananas, etc... If you wanted something more substantial, the restaurant was selling barbeque. They had live music with a country/bluegrass band and several people decided to go sit and soak in the New River. The finshers awards were medallions but were made of wood with the race's quilt-theme burned in. There is a history of quilting in the area that stretches to painting the patterns on the sides of barns. I have heard the story but don't know enough to relate it here. Age groups were ten years and received pottery, as did the overall winners.

In all, this was an impressive first effort. I should add that the course is great for bringing a significant other who likes to bike. They can even stay along the New River Road and can bike back into Todd (where the race doesn't go) and visit the General Store for a walk back in time. Just allow a little extra time to arrive in case they haven't worked out the traffic problems next year.
New River Marathon

No comments:

Post a Comment