Last full marathon was the (former) Ridge to Bridge in NC. One of my absolute favorite runs, but I had a bad day due to back & hip problems. After my 3rd knee surgery in November 2012 I was determined to get back into running distance. It's my therapy & such a part of me. I made one failed attempt at the Virginia Creeper marathon in March of 2013 - only made 18 miles. Partially due to weather as it was sleeting & I was miserably cold, but mostly because I was undertrained & knew I would be walking most of the last 8 miles. I just could not face the thought of it.
Fast forward to now. I had signed up for another one of my favorites, the Black Mtn marathon. The marathon begins in Black Mtn, NC , runs through Montreat & ascends the Toll Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway before returning to town. The Challenge continues to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point in the east, before returning. I have completed the marathon two times & the 40 mile Challenge four times & I just love the course, the aid station volunteers & the swag. Hell, I figured if nothing else I could hike it as I am perfectly capable of 20+ mile dayhikes & the last half is almost all downhill!
I was a little better trained this time & also had the benefit of having a few friends along for support: Amanda & her husband Mike, Kirk & Tom. I showed up early race day & was a complete bundle of nerves. I couldn't decide if I was gonna pass out or puke. It's been quite a while since I have felt that nervous before a run!
First few miles ticked off pretty quickly, as you are mostly on paved roads through town. Then it was time to hit the trail! There is always a police officer at the turnoff & I always try to have my photo taken with them after I thank them for being out there.
Despite the recent winter weather, there was not alot of snow or ice the trails. In fact, the warm days had turned it into a muddy mess. Melting snow was running down the trail like a creek! These sloppy conditions made for slow going, but that worked well for me as my strength for uphill is hiking rather than running.
We finally made it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway & the turnaround. While my time was not great, I knew the best part - DOWNHILL- was coming next! This was where I truly felt my best. I was able to hop-skip-jump & successfully navigate the rocks while maintaining a good pace. I was surprised how quickly I regained my trail legs.
Eventually we came to my favorite aid station only a few miles from the finish. What's good about it? They always have beer! This year it was Oskar Blues. Yummy!
The rest of the race went by fairly quickly, although there were some really steep descents into Montreat. After a couple more miles running along the edge of Black Mtn, I hit the last few hills before you get to the finish at Lake Tomahawk. It's a little cruel to run you so close to the finish line when you still have to run around the lake, but it is a beautiful place!