Tag: race review

Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Half Marathon – A Race Review

I’ll just come right out and say it. Blue Ridge is the best race. Regardless of which distance you are running, this one will keep you coming back year after year. Spoiler alert: It will beat you every time.

Isn’t ‘insanity’ doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Maybe so, but you will love this insanity! Blue Ridge truly has something for everyone: Carilion Children’s 1 miler, Anthem Star 10k, marathon relay, half marathon, full marathon and for those of you with zero good sense, the double marathon! Seriously. You really can run the full, twice in one day. You’ll earn a sweet double finisher gift if you do.

Blue Ridge boasts of being America’s Toughest Road Races for good reason. Unless you’re doing the children’s 1 miler, you will encounter some crazy elevation gain and loss throughout each race course. Forget PRing this one. Just focus on finishing it, and enjoying the gorgeous views and the outpouring of community support along the way.

The pre-race expo is always a good time. Bring some extra pocket jingle to buy race gear like the hoodie my husband, Mark is wearing here. If you see something you like, buy it. Race merchandise is limited and sells out quickly.

Pre-race smiles…and jitters. Let’s get this party started!

Mark chose to interval this as his first full marathon with twin goals of staying on course and beating the sweep. His walking pace is faster than my running pace. Also, you can’t get lost at Blue Ridge. They do a great job of marking the course and there are helpful course marshals everywhere. Just follow the arrows that match the color of your bib.

I pre-registered for the half marathon but planned to switch to the 10k, because I was rehabbing a bone bruise in my foot and had not been able to train properly. At the last minute, I decided to stick with the half and walk it. My friend Kelly was walking the 10k, so we adventured together for the first 5 miles, stopping to take selfies with everything and everyone. Race day is a much different experience without the pressure of trying to PR.

Pa Kettle met us as we began our ascent up Mill Mountain.

The community support for Blue Ridge is second to none. Homeowners along the route come out to bolster the runners with music, signs, words of encouragement and unofficial aid stations. Our friends Donna and Lorelie have awesome front yard cheer stations, families offer apple juice boxes and other treats to the runners, homeowners set up their sprinklers streetside to run through. There are some quirky surprises to look forward to as well.

Don’t be concerned about having to walk during the race; nearly everyone walks the uphill sections. You’ll meet some great people with interesting stories to tell if you’re chatty. A few years ago, I met a 72 year old lady who was walking the half with her teenage grandkids and trash-talking them the whole way up Mill Mountain. She was so funny! This year, we met some nice people who were visiting from Pennsylvania and we gave our beer tickets to them. #glutenallergy #designateddriver

Smile for the photographers along the race course! Blue Ridge offers free race day photos. You can search them by your name or bib number after the race.

Made it to the Star!

There’s a party at the star with food, drinks, music and lots of opportunities for picture-taking. Pause your tracking app, take a selfie or two and soak in the panoramic views of the Roanoke Valley.

Once you’ve had a moment to rest at the star, it’s time to head back down the mountain. The “Old Road” is very picturesque and offers beautiful woodland views. You won’t be on it for long before you start to see some curious signs.

These ladies serve up mimosas to the runners at Rockledge, an historic, stone home on the side of Mill Mountain. Whether you enjoy a mimosa or not, pause a moment and take in the stunning city views before leaving Rockledge.

You won’t lack for entertainment during Blue Ridge. There are funny signs along the course.

And musicians to serenade you.

Kelly and I said goodbye at the Walnut Avenue bridge where the 10k course heads to the finish and the half course pops onto the greenway towards South Roanoke. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Enjoy the relatively flat section of greenway through McClanahan; you’ll start to climb again on 22nd Street and as you wind your way through the rolling hills of SoRo. The calm before the storm that is Peakwood.

Cutest little race supporter! (She’s not in the Witness Protection Program; I just don’t put kid’s pics on the internet without permission.)

Round the corner onto Somerset and enjoy one last water stop before it’s time to climb again. I had just barely started up Peakwood when a man yelled to me “It’s not far now! You’re almost to the top!”
You tell beautiful, beautiful lies.

Yes, Peakwood needs its own welcome!
This is the steep section of the half that we all love to dread.

As you climb, you’ll convince yourself that the top is just around the next curve.

Or the next one.

At mile 8.8 there is a short downhill section that, for the uninitiated, may trick you into thinking that was the worst of Peakwood. Don’t be fooled. You’re going to climb again. Even more demoralizing, full marathoners will breeze right past! Resist the temptation to trip them.

And just when you’ve given up all hope of ever cresting Peakwood, there it is! The party in the cul-de-sac! These friendly volunteers will greet you with champagne, fresh fruit and more importantly, with smiles and words of encouragement.

Grab an ice-cold towel to wash the sweat away before you begin the trek back down into SoRo proper.

The downhill stretch from West Ridge Road through Rosalind Avenue is the reward for completing Peakwood.

South Roanoke in the springtime cannot be prettier. These gorgeous views almost make you completely forget the pain that is Blue Ridge.


Be sure to stop for a selfie with the mannequin. ‘Cause that’s not awkward at all. I told you there are quirky surprises!

Cresting the bridge in front of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital on Jefferson Street. One more mile to go. But who’s counting?!

After I finished the half, I met up with our friends Nikki and Michelle to wait for Mark to finish. He earned bragging rights within our circle of running friends by being the first in the group to tackle the full.

I haven’t said ‘never’ to a full marathon, but after watching friends limp around post-race in various levels of pain; let’s just say I’m not currently interested. When I finish a half marathon thinking ‘Boy, I could really go for another 13 miles right now!’, I’ll sign up for a full!

I’m super proud of this guy. I honestly expected him to be in serious pain by the end of the race. Two blocks from the finish line, he yelled to Nikki, “This is fun; you’re doing it next year!”

No, Mark didn’t run the team relay, we just grabbed the wrong sign. Oops!

After receiving your finisher medal, hobble on over to the the Fleet Feet Recovery Zone and have your aching muscles rolled out by a friendly volunteer, or enjoy a massage by a physical therapist.

Once you can walk upright again, visit the food tent for post-race pizza and other snacks, or head into the Elmwood Park amphitheater for live music, food trucks and craft beer. It’s time to revel in successfully completing one of America’s Toughest Road Races!

For more information on the Blue Ridge races, click here:
While you’re there, go ahead and register for the next race.
Blue Ridge will kick your butt, but you’ll love it. Promise.

I’m not in partnership with any brands mentioned in this race review. I’m simply sharing my experience with this race.

Disclosure: In addition to occasional sponsored posts, Arthurized Home uses clickable affiliate links. That means that I may receive a small commission from sales at no extra charge to you. As always, my opinion is 100% my own, and I only recommend things that I truly love or use myself. Thank you for patronizing the brands that support Arthurized Home!

Copyright 2019-2021 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.

Hatfield & McCoy Blackberry Mountain Half Marathon Review – No Feudin’, Just Runnin’

“That’s an awful long way to drive for a race. I don’t know why y’all can’t find races that are closer to home.” – my 87 year old father-in-law

Settle in with an iced tea or other beverage of choice for this tale of mountain adventure. Bonus points if you’re sipping from a mason jar.

We’re always looking for ‘away games’ because the only thing better than race weekend is race weekend in a new locale. We learned of H&M through an online article and chose it because it offers hills for my husband and a historic route and unique finisher’s medal for me. We traveled with some adventurous friends, one of whom is a descendant of the McCoy family.

Williamson, WV/KY has just a few options for lodging, and those fill up over a year in advance of the race. Not to worry, there is a nice West Virginia State Parks Lodge nearby in Logan. It’s just over 30 miles away and an easy drive to Williamson. We found Chief Logan Lodge to be sparkling clean with beautiful, rustic architecture and friendly, accommodating staff. The views from the Lodge are amazing! We ate at the Lodge restaurant the first night and while the food was a disappointment, our server was fantastic and we had a window seat with a pretty, mountain view.

The second night there, we asked an employee where we should go for a nice dinner. He named Arby’s and Taco Bell in Logan. When pressed for a date night suggestion, he told us that we would fare better if we drove to Williamson, that “ever since they put in the by-pass, there’s no reason to stop in Logan.” His sad comment reminded me of Radiator Springs in the movie “Cars”.

Parking at the Lodge is convenient, which we appreciated as we hobbled back to our room after the race.  A post-race soak in their hot tub felt amazing.

The race expo was in a high school and was very well run. We were greeted by Devil Anse Hatfield and Ol’ Randal McCoy and had our picture made with them. Packet pick-up was efficient and we were able to try on our shirts and exchange one of them.

This race isn’t afraid to have some fun with stereotypes!

We shopped the expo for awhile and then headed to the pasta dinner in the cafeteria. When I registered for the race, I inquired about a gluten-free pasta option and I was told there would be one. There was a miscommunication and the very apologetic ladies running the kitchen did not know they were supposed to provide g-free pasta. They said there were other runners looking for it as well. We found a nearby steakhouse and ate dinner there.

On race morning, we drove to Williamson, parked and rode a shuttle bus to the start line at Food City just across the state line into Kentucky. The store was open for the runners to use the restroom and they had coffee available. Devil Anse and Ol’ Randal were there for photos; the people-watching was fantastic!

Photo credit: Michelle Bowles

The community pride is palpable here as is the Hatfield/McCoy family pride. When you meet a descendant of either family (and you will) they will announce that fact within the first few minutes of your conversation.

Photo credit: Michelle Bowles

The Full Marathon, Double Half and Blackberry Mountain Half all started from our location. None of the races have a time limit, and the announcer at the start said “you have all day to finish it, but we would prefer that you finish sooner!” Shots were fired (to begin the race, not another feud) and we were off!

We headed out onto US 119 under heavy fog, which gave way to sunny humidity. A quick double back and we were soon running on neighborhood roads. Folks along the race route sat on their porches enjoying their morning coffee, cheering and watching the parade of runners go by. After a few miles of rolling hills we began our ascent up Blackberry Mountain. Running gave way to walking this steep stretch of the race. The course was open to traffic, and we hopped in the ditch at one point to let a wide load through. Just a slight delay of game! Once we made our way down Blackberry Mountain, the rest of the course was mostly flat with occasional, small hills.

There were water stops and cheer stations every mile with cups of ice, popsicles, sports drink and cold towels. We appreciated all of it; it was SO hot! The water stops were hillbilly themed, some outrageously so.

There are loads of photo opportunities along the race route. We stopped off at the site where the McCoy cabin was burned down in a raid by the Hatfields, the cabin where the hog trial took place, visited the Hatfields Miniature Horses and passed the banks of the Tug River where the McCoys were killed at the Pawpaw trees. After crossing the Tug, we took a short jaunt through downtown Matewan, WV to the finish line. There was cold fruit on offer along with water and sports drink. Ice-cold watermelon never tasted so good!

Hog trial cabin

We rested awhile, then boarded the shuttle bus for the wild, mountainous ride back to Williamson. Our bus driver was so generous! She stopped at our parking lot, waited for us to get our shower bags, and drove us to the gym for showers. (We were glad that we packed towels and flip-flops in our shower bags because this is a gymnasium, not a spa.) Our driver was going to lunch, so she gave me her cell phone number in case we wanted a ride over to the finish line downtown. We’ve never experienced hospitality at a race like we did here!

After showering, we walked the few blocks to the finish line to find something to eat. Instead of the requisite post-race-cold-pizza-that-we-can’t-eat-anyway the H&M does things a little differently. Your bib is a coupon and you can choose from a list of restaurants that will honor it. We made our way over to 34:Ate which we chose for the Yelp reviews, and it exceeded our expectations. I ordered a Turkey Bacon Blackberry sandwich on a gluten free bun and gulped down (what seemed like) gallons of their peach tea.  The cost for my lunch was $1.50, plus tip.

Next, we strolled the downtown area which had rolled out the red carpet for its weekend guests. The shops were open, there was a car show and craft vendors on both sides of the street. We briefly visited the coal house and then it was time for us to cheer on our friends as they finished the Double Half Marathon.

It’s difficult for me to put into words how unique this race is. I think it’s something you just have to experience for yourself. Why should you add Hatfield & McCoy races to your short list? For the opportunity to be a part of something special, and because the community pride in these mountains is the same pride of home we all share. The area truly is God’s Country, and these hospitable Mountaineers want to show it off a little while showing you a good time.  This race is hilly, hot, humid and ALL heart.

Visit here for more information on the race:

Disclosure: In addition to occasional sponsored posts, Arthurized Home uses clickable affiliate links. That means that I may receive a small commission from sales at no extra charge to you. As always, my opinion is 100% my own, and I only recommend things that I truly love or use myself. Thank you for patronizing the brands that support Arthurized Home!

Copyright 2019-2021 © Arthurized Home – All Rights Reserved. This post is the original content of Arthurized Home. If you’re reading this on another site, it’s unArthurized.