Y’all, remember when I first heard about the Inaugural Asheville Half Marathon?
Remember when I was so stoked to win an entry?
Later, reality started encroaching. Hills. Cold. Training wasn’t exactly up to par. Freak out ensues.
You know, I didn’t pay for it. I wouldn’t be losing out if I bagged it. Why don’t I bag it?
For a reason that only runners understand – I don’t have a DNS (Did Not Start) or DNF (Did Not Finish) on my record yet and I would need a really good reason to get one. “I don’t feel like it” was not a good reason!
At the expo on Saturday I chatted with Danny Dreyer, founder of Chi Running and I gushed about how his program saved my running from being doomed by shin splints. I stopped short of totally fangirl-ing him by asking for a picture and I regret that now. YOLO, right? Next time! He was so friendly and encouraging that I started to look a little more positively on this race. Well, that and I bought a limited edition bottle of wine from the table next to his – Biltmore Winery, 13.1, holla!
Race day dawns cold but not yet wet. No, that happened right as we were lining up for the start, natch. But I have to give a completely unendorsed plug here. I borrowed my husband’s Frogg Toggs jacket and it worked like a dream. I think it is meant for camping, but it’s breatheable and I stayed amazingly dry. I will definitely need to invest in my own because I have a feeling that jacket kept this experience from completely tanking.
Pre-race: You start and finish at Biltmore’s Antler Hill Village. There were shuttle buses from hotels but I found ample parking on site. In a great show of irony, the only place open was the ice cream shop but they were blessedly serving coffee that frigid morning. Real bathrooms scattered about as well as porta pots in the parking lot. Well done! This is a smaller race so no corrals; marathoners and half marathoners alike lined up on their own.
The Course: Both the marathon and half marathon course are run entirely on the Biltmore Estate. No auto traffic, very little noise from the nearby highway. I was worried about the hills when I saw the elevation map, but was pleasantly surprised! They are there, but they’re truly gradual inclines and I baby-step ran my way up most of them. They’re also loaded into the front of the course – the last part of the run is mercifully flat along the river.
I brought my iPod because I am decidedly not one of those runners who goes without music. Not for 3 miles, not for 13. Too much time in my own head leads to Bad Thoughts – like how much I hate running and wondering why I ever sign up for these things. Running solo, very few spectators on course… I thought I would be desperate for the boogie. Y’all – I never turned it on. This is the most peaceful run I have ever had. Once the crowd thinned after the start, there was plenty of room and quiet to just do my own thing. Even with the less than perfect weather, it was such a beautiful run through the pristine Biltmore grounds that blasting Michael Jackson and Prince through my headphones seemed entirely inappropriate.
As usual, I made my own photo ops. I would have had more, but since I was solo I didn’t want to pull too many people into my shenanigans. The Biltmore House is just before the 10K split and I swapped photog favors with another girl. I got a pic of Marie acting like she was opening the front door; she got this lovely photo of me:
We were cold and wet but having fun being silly. Marie proclaimed, “I just love chick runners!” Me, too, girl – me, too! Clearly, I am not in the Serious Runner category if I am up here smooching statues.
Between miles 9 & 10 you switch to a dirt track by the river. Flat, but somewhat rocky and at this point, decidedly muddy. My ONLY negative about the course came shortly after. At the point which you can SEE the people heading over to the finish line and you can hear the crowd, you are made to go down an out-and-back course for over a mile. I was pissed. It’s a peeve – I HATE out-and-back filler loops, especially at the end of a race. It just messes with me mentally when I am directed AWAY from the finish line and see all the people coming toward me as I am going somewhere just to come right back again. GAH.
I bucked up and made it up a final hill (not nice!) to get to the finisher’s chute. There was a GREAT volunteer/ employee standing out in the rain yelling for everyone. When I came through, looking ragged I’m sure, she hollered, “You are almost there! I’m here for you, baby!” Okay – so maybe that got me a smile on my face for my finisher’s picture!
The Perks: Of course, I got the race shirt. It’s a women’s cut and if you like them bigger, then size up. I got a medium and I’m glad I did; a small would have been really fitted and I don’t like that.
If you are a bling whore, be forewarned – the medal is not meTal. It’s wooden. This is artsy-Asheville and you get an artsy medal. It’s very unique and the details are much more intricate than any other I’ve seen.
Here is my favorite – a few steps after you get your medal, you get a blanket wrapped around you. Not a heat sheet – a nice fleece blanket with the race logo embroidered on it. I treasure this more than the medal!
The food tent was awesome. Bi-Lo was the sponsor. You are handed a super cute reusable tote and you go through the tent, filling you bag with your choice of items. Let me tell you, there was PLENTY to choose from! Varieties of drinks, fruit, snacks…. even donuts! In my usual filter-less fashion, I blurted out, “This is my first donut race! I’m so excited!” The man behind the table offered that he was so glad he could be a part of that for me. Love that. And the Hot Chocolate Lady. She was pouring the packets in the cups for the runners and mixing the hot chocolate with a smile and words of congratulations. I lurved the Hot Chocolate Lady.
The Experience: Overall, this was an amazingly well-organized race. The expo was easy to navigate, instructions were clear, parking was more than sufficient, pre-race amenities were much better than most races, course was well marked, water / food stops often and well staffed….. I didn’t have a single complaint, about the whole event. And, if you know me, that’s rare. The volunteers and Biltmore staff were all very friendly and cheerful – not easy when you are being called to stand out in the cold rain for hours on end.
I’m glad I got to be a part of the Inaugural Asheville Half Marathon. I’m really grateful that my pride didn’t allow me to bag it. Half Marathon #10 is a milestone, and I’m really glad I hit it in such a unique and positive way! Get on their mailing list for next year and consider adding this one to your calendar. The race sold out in February this year and I can only imagine this one growing in popularity. Well done, Asheville Marathon, and thanks for the experience!