Let me keep this simple. If you haven’t yet run the Charlottesville Half Marathon or Marathon, add it to your bucket list. ASAP.
I ran this year’s Charlottesville Half Marathon on Saturday, my second time doing this race. Although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the bigger races do, this course will forever be one of my top-ranked. Here’s why.
Limited to 3,500 runners
The 3,500 cap for this race is perfect. Enough runners that you’re never alone on the course; there are people to chat with and people to follow if the course winds unexpectedly. But still, not so many that you have to tip-toe-shuffle on the heels of the person in front of you for the first half mile. Phew.
“Small town” means quick & easy commuting
Being accustomed to larger-scale races, particularly in DC (aka waking up ridiculously early to pack into the metro & be cattle-herded through the streets and corrals), this smaller race is a breath of fresh air. On race-day eve, it took me all of 4 minutes to find parking, pick up my race packet, and be on my merry way. Race morning, my dad and I hopped in the car at 6:35 to get me downtown with plenty of time to stretch, use the bathroom, & get to the start at 7 am. An extra hour of sleep on race day? Amen.
Scenic course speaks for itself
No bands, no cheerleading teams, no fancy-pants grandstands for spectators. This race goes back to the basics, letting the gorgeous scenery do all the talking. And I’m not typically the type to opt for scenery over action- I prefer the crowds, the signs, the energy. But during the Charlottesville course, you run through sweet neighborhoods with cheering residents, UVA’s campus and the Rotunda, a wooded park trail along the Rivanna River, and the quaint & adorable downtown mall. It’s just enough variety and just enough beauty to keep you engaged and blissfully happy the entire 13.1 or 26.2.
No headphones allowed
I must be mistaken- I meant to include with reasons NOT to run Charlottesville, right? Wrong. Personally, I always prefer to run without headphones. It allows me to focus on my body’s needs and really soak up the world around me. I find this to be particularly important on race day, since I need to put extra attention on pacing and fueling, and the time goes so much faster when I’m enjoying the race environment instead of tuning it out.
Although most races “discourage” headphones for safety reasons, the Charlottesville Marathon doesn’t allow them (even though rebellious types still sneak them in with no problem, so don’t let this deter you). Since this race “prohibits” headphones, many more runners actually do go without than in any other race I’ve seen, which makes for amazing runner camaraderie and support. Runners in this race thank every single crossing guard and volunteer, cheer on fellow runners who’ve lost some steam, and make friendly conversation over the course of a few miles. I’ll take this sense of community over Pandora any day.
Amazing post-race food
Every time I run a race and see a spectator with a sign to the effect of “___ miles and all you get is a tshirt and a banana,” I get a tad depressed on the inside and think “yea, you’re right.” Not at the Charlottesville Marathon/Half! Post-race food, provided by Whole Foods, includes pizza, couscous, bagels with cream cheese (such a simple thing! Hello other races, no one likes dry bagels), chocolate milk, Muscle Milk (if you’re into that), and did I mention pizza? And if you’re really stuck on bananas, don’t worry, they have those too. 🙂
And if that’s not enough to convince you, just check out what the bigwigs are saying about Charlottesville:
“One of the best new marathons in the USA.” -Runner’s World Magazine
“One of the top destination marathons in the country.” -The New York Times
“Considered by many as the most scenic marathon course in the East.” -Running Times Magazine
Do you have an all-time favorite race? Share the love in the comments below!