Blue Ridge Half Marathon – Race Report



The short and sweet

I had a good race today. I finished in 2:23:02 (I think that was my official chip time), which is an overall pace of 10:54/mile. My time this year was 22 minutes faster than last year, but still 22 minutes off of my half marathon PR. That just goes to show you how difficult this course is! The weather couldn’t have been nicer for the race today. It was sunny and in the mid 40’s. The only thing we could have done without was the 15 mph winds that we were occasionally running straight into. Overall a great day to run a race. Here is the elevation profile:

The dirty details

Now that you’ve seen the elevation for the race course, I’ll give you the details of the day.

We were a little late getting up this morning. My alarm went off a little before 5 and we had planned to leave by 5:50 AM. However, I was very comfortable and warm and somewhere very far back in my mind I knew there was a reason to get up. Around 5:30 AM I realized we were supposed to leave in 20 minutes and jumped out of bed to get ready. Luckily I laid everything out the night before and had my bag packed, so all we really needed to do was take care of the dogs and eat something.

I ate a lemon flavored Luna bar and had some water and soon we were on the road, about 10-15 minutes later than planned. The drive up to Roanoke was uneventful and we were able to park at the garage that was close to the start/finish lines as planned. We ended up getting into town shortly after 7:00 AM for a 7:35 race start. I was hoping to get there a little sooner so that we could watch the finish of the “Official Unofficial Double Marathon”. That’s right! There are a few runners who meet at 2:30 AM to run the marathon course before the race. They finish around 7:00 AM and then turn around and run the full marathon. Crazy!

We missed them, but we were there in plenty of time to get parked, drop our bag off at bag check, and use the porta potties. Then Barry and I meandered over to the start and waited to run. While waiting, I ran into Anita and Glenda and two other Sole Sisters runners. I met Anita and Glenda two weeks ago at the Color Me Cameron 5K and it was great to see them again! This was their first time running Blue Ridge. There was a moment of silence, the national anthem was sung, and just after 7:35 we were off.

The race starts with a mile in the downtown area, heading for the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we made our way through town we were treated to a nice view of where we were headed: The Roanoke Star at the top of Mill Mountain.

After the first mile, things got serious as we began our climb up the mountain. The Blue Ridge Parkway is absolutely beautiful to run on, especially since everything is green now that spring has arrived. I was able to run for the first 2.5 miles of the race, and then I had to switch on and off walking/running the rest of the way up the mountain.

A steep climb

We got to the top of the mountain just after 4 miles. We got to see the Roanoke Star and I linked up with Anita and Glenda. I ended up running with them until mile 12 and it was great to support each other up the hills that were to come.

Mile 1- 10:02
Mile 2- 11:00
Mile 3- 13:37
Mile 4- 12:57

As we passed the Roanoke Star, we looped around in front of it and began our roughly 2 mile descent down Mill Mountain. This is where you get some beautiful views of downtown Roanoke, where we had started.

On the way down the mountain I tried to just keep myself under control, but not fight gravity. I didn’t want to trash my quads like I did last year, and I am happy to report I managed to not beat them up too much.

Mile 5- 10:05
Mile 6- 9:48

A cow even came out to watch the runners make their way down the mountain

After we got down the mountain we ran along the greenway for about a mile and a half before making our way through some neighborhoods. There was one mean hill we went up during this time that had two left turns in it, making it seem like it was never going to end. Once through the neighborhood we ran over a bridge and make our way to mile 9.

Mile 7- 11:13
Mile 8- 10:44

Once we passed mile 9, we ran a detour route that took us through mile 11. They had to make last minute changes to the course due to flooding on the greenway area we were supposed to run on from miles 9-11. This change added at least 3-4 more “significant climbs” and another 206 feet in elevation change. This was due to twice having to exit off of the road we were on, run under it, and then come back onto it to get us from one side of traffic to the other (since these roads were still open and we were running along the side of them).

As we approached mile 11 I realized we were running through a park that I had been to before. There’s a dog park there that we took Hank to a number of times when he was younger (until he got attacked… then we stopped going). I found it funny that we were running the “wrong way” through the park.

These are the things you entertain your brain with at mile 11, after you have run up a mountain and down the other side and your legs are feeling very fatigued. At the end of mile 11 we had another bridge to climb over (I think that made 3 for the day?) and then we rolled on to mile 12. Somewhere in here we ran up a hill and there was a guy at the top holding a white board that he was using as a poster. It said “You think you’re tired?? I’ve been holding this sign all day!”. That got a laugh out of me.

Mile 9- 10:43
Mile 10- 11:39
Mile 11- 11:16

I got a final burst of energy during the last mile and was able to push the pace much faster than I had the entire race. It helped that there weren’t any more hills to climb up during this final mile. During the last mile we ran past a sign that said “Funeral Home Ahead. Look Alive!”. I had a strong finish and shook the race director’s hand as I crossed the finish line. That is one special touch that I really like about Blue Ridge: the race director stands at the finish line and shakes every finishers hand for the half and full as they come through. After shaking the race director’s hand, a member of the Miss Smith Mountain Lake Scholarship Pageant placed a medal around my neck and a race volunteer (they’re called ‘Sherpas’ because of the mountain-theme to the race) handed me a bottle of water.

Mile 12- 10:43
Mile 13- 9:05

I need to work on opening my eyes during pictures

Barry also ran a great race and finished in 1:49:22, about 5 minutes faster than last year. He said his legs started cramping around mile 9. He was on pace to run sub-1:40 before that happened. He still placed 92nd overall, though!

Anita and Glenda soon came through the finish and we hung out with them for a bit in the finish area.

Anita and me

Anita, Glenda, and me

They offered bagels, shrimp, Banana-flavored Power Bars, sodas (Coke, Diet Coke, etc.), pizza, bananas, water, and chocolate milk. I grabbed a quarter of a bagel, but otherwise didn’t actually go through the food line. Barry and I hung out to wait for the top finishers of the full marathon to come in. I can’t remember their times, but I think the top man came in at 2:48 something (don’t hold me to that) and the top woman came in around 3:24. It’s very inspiring to watch them cross the finish line.

Once we were done watching them finish we swung back by the car to get some money and change into dry clothes and then went to grab some lunch. We walked over to Corned Beef & Co. It was my first time going there and I thought it was really good. They are famous for their sandwiches and pizza, so naturally I got a taco salad.

It’s just what sounded good. And it was pretty good, except I didn’t like the shell. It had been fried and it was really oily.

They had live coverage of the marathon on one of the local stations today, and I recorded it on our DVR. I’m excited to watch it this afternoon! I love watching road races on TV.

Anyone else running a race this weekend? How was it??

27 Comments

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  1. Congrats friend! After running this as my first half, I’m definitely hoping
    for something a little flatter next time πŸ˜‰ I did love this challenge and hope to do it again next year, now that I know what to expect!

    1. Thanks! Congrats to you, too! I hope you had a great race. You sure did pick a challenging one for your first half.

  2. Way to go! Definitely looks like a big mountain and I *love* that the volunteers are called sherpas. Taco salad looks amazing. Hope you enjoyed it πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! I know, I think the sherpa thing is so funny! It’s even on the back of their shirts, it says: Sherpa marathon guide… or something like that. The salad was good other than the shell!

  3. Congrats Meagan!!! That’s so awesome that you had a great finish! The guy holding the sign about being tired would have made me laugh too. The views are so pretty at the top of the mountain. One day I may just get the courage to run this race too!

    1. Reading all of the signs that spectators are holding can be one of the most fun things about racing!

      You totally should run it! Its definitely a challenging course, but it’s one of my favorite races. The race director and the staff/volunteers do an amazing job and put on a great race.

    2. Have a great race next weekend! I can’t wait to read all about it!

  4. Looks like a GREAT race!! Congrats!! I’m cracking up about that cow–how strange!! That’s one thing I haven’t come across loose on the road.

    I would be very happy with that time. I think at the end of the big hill around mile 4 I would have needed a nap. LOL

    1. The cow was a statue! On first glance as you came around the corner it looked real, though!

  5. Your day sounds like it was so much fun! πŸ™‚
    That race sounds hard but worth it… I’m glad you’re happy with your time and with the overall race πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! It definitely is tough, but worth it like you said! I hear so many people say it is one of their favorite races. I think a big part of that is because it’s so tough, and you really feel accomplished when you finish.

  6. Yay congratulations!!! I’m glad you had a good race!! Those views look really awesome and the signs you mentioned are great! I also can’t believe there are people that run the official unofficial double marathon, but maybe I’ll attempt the half one day!

    1. Thank you! The views are amazing and there were so many funny signs. I wish I had gotten pictures of them.

      Those people that run the double (I think they had over 10 people run it this year) are amazing. You totally should do the half one day.

      Good luck at your race next weekend!! You’re going to kick butt!

  7. I love your pictures. They help keep the memories! It was great running with you and us all encouraging each other was priceless. It was a great day, and even though I am pretty sore today, it was worth it!

    1. Since I started my blog in January I’ve taken a lot more pictures. I know it’s going to be great to look back on races in the years to come and remember little things that I forgot.

      I am so glad I got to run with y’all yesterday! You guys helped me in the final push to the top of the mountain. It was great encouraging each other on all the “one more hill” hills and “maybe this is the last hill” hills that we ran yesterday!

  8. I love what the front of your shirt says, and I love that the race volunteers are called Sherpas! They’ve got a very creative group planning that race.

    That little Holstein calf is so cute! I can never decide which I think are the cutest baby calves… maybe it’s a tie between Holsteins and Herefords, although the Angus calves are pretty cute, too.

    1. It was cute(even though it was a statue)! I think Jerseys are also really cute as calves, but my favorite are black baldys!

    2. HaHa, it’s a statue? I want one for my back yard! My HOA might allow me to do that kind of farming. πŸ™‚

    3. Haha maybe they will let you get away with that one! πŸ™‚

  9. Barry is so fast. I think it’s because his legs are so long.

    You did awesome!!!!! That’s so great that you beat your previous time by 22 minutes!!! I don’t think it’s fair to compare courses with intense elevation to your regular PRs – they are just in a different class. I’m also really glad your legs weren’t trashed this time!

    1. He is fast! I think I take two steps to each of his one when we run together.

      Thanks! I also think this race is kind of in a league of it’s own. That means I have two PR’s right? A standard half and a mountain half?? πŸ™‚

    2. Definitely two PRs!!! It’s like for my trail runs/races..I don’t even shoot for anything remotely close to a “normal” race because they just aren’t even comparable.

      I think it’s totally legit.

      You’ve also officially sold me on doing this race next year!

    3. Woohoo!! That’s good, because it’s a great race. I’ll probably run it next year, unless we find something else that weekend. How can I turn down a half marathon that I don’t have to travel overnight for??

  10. CONGRATULATIONS Meagan!!! I was somewhat sad this weekend – first Blue Ridge I haven’t run, but it was so fun to still keep updated on the race through you and your blog! Way to go!!!! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Nicki! I know it must have ben tough and I’m sorry you couldn’t be there this year. We missed you out there!

  11. Nice job Megs! Recover well and just think how easy your next (flatter) race will be. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Chris! I expect to go sub-2 on my next half that’s a flatter course. But the next on the schedule (Varmint) has relentless hills, so I don’t expect to do it there! I won’t write it off completely, though πŸ™‚

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