You Run Hills, I Run Mountains (Blue Ridge Half)

This past Saturday, April 16, I finished my 13th half marathon.

Until now the Deep Hollow Half Marathon of 2014 has held the title of hardest half I’ve completed, but it was dethroned this weekend by the Blue Ridge Half Marathon.

It isn’t called America’s Toughest Road Half for nothing.

Let us take a second to look at the elevation profile of this course:

Now that that’s been established, let’s start at the beginning of the day.

I live about an hour from the start line, so I made the decision early to just to race morning pickup. I got there early (way earlier than I should have probably) and got a prime parking spot. The “race packet” was just our bib, shirt, and a pair of socks so I was really glad I hadn’t made a special trip the day before to get it. The shirt is really awesome (see above) though.

I had about 45 minutes to kill before the race, but I really didn’t want to sit in my car even though it was cold. Thankfully, a coffee shop right on the start line was open and I was able to stand in the heat and people watch.

When the race started, we went up…
…and up…
…and up…

I tried not to walk, but after 2 miles of straight up I gave in because I was honestly walking faster than I could run at that point.

During the first climb when I was still running, and before I took off the hoodie I thought was a good idea.

At around the 5K mark we made it to the Roanoke start (which I should have taken a picture of, but was way too tired)

Then we went down…
…and down…
…and down…

Eventually that started to hurt too. I almost knocked over someone at a water station halfway down the descent because I couldn’t stop myself in time, the mountain was so steep.

We got to a flat area and I remember thinking “Okay, it can’t get any worse than that”. I was wrong. I was very wrong.

After a generously flat section, the course begins the ascent of the (what I know now is infamous) Peakwood neighborhood. I have to say the support from the neighborhood residents was amazing. So many of them had food and/or water in their yards for runners. Kids had made signs and were cheering us on.

But that hill, uh mountain, was seemingly never ending. I seriously felt like I was climbing for hours. There was no way I was going to finish in under 3 hours, which was a little upsetting after my PR the week before.

At the top of Peakwood was the most serious race party/support/aid station I’ve ever seen. There was all the food you could ever want, cold wet rags, band aids, even champagne! I grabbed a cup of graps and gratefully (grapefully?) started the descent.

Even though my legs were dead at this point, going downhill was wonderful. I didn’t even care that everything hurt, it was just nice to breathe again, and cross the 10 mile mark on the way down.

The last 3 miles were the longest, which was weird because they had hills, but nothing like what we had already conquered. I was 100% done, but decided to run to the finish no matter how slow it went.

Weeeee! Downhill!

When I finally crossed the finish line, I saw that I finished well under 3 hours (2:33) which was a huge relief! I was actually kind of impressed with myself since that time was only about 20 minutes slower than my PR the week before and the elevation was insane.

The entire time I was actually doing the race, I swore I would never do it again. But after giving myself 24 hours to think about it, I decided I’m definitely in for next year 😉

Not only was it challenging, and in turn rewarding, it was one of the most well organized races I have done. See ya next year you stupid mountains.


I unlocked this badge with my Fitbit, the first time I had made it past 150 floors in a day!