A marathon with a bit of a punch. With social media hashtags like #yesitshilly and #conqurethiscourse I suspected I was in for a challenge.
Whether you run the Marathon, the Half Marathon or the Mountain Mama 8k you’re in for a tough and challenging race. For your efforts, you’ll receive support that rivals or surpasses any big city marathon. I ran the marathon on a warm Sunday morning and found the support around the race very helpful and welcoming.
The packet pickup was located at a Dicks Sporting Goods superstore that was easy to locate. To be honest, I missed the feel of a true race expo. As runners, we suffer in training and on race day…the expo is a time to enjoy our journey to the starting line, make new friends and to celebrate. The volunteers were very helpful. I was in and out in no time with my race gear in hand.
The start of the race and finish of the race was held at the West Virginia University Coliseum and for logistics reasoning, the event restricted parking at this location. Offsite parking with a free shuttle service was provided for racers, family and spectators alike. This service went off like a well-timed military operation. I arrived just after 5:45 and by 6 a.m. I was at the starting line without delay.
Race day morning support included late registration, packet pick up and dry bag drop off. All the pre-race activities and announcements went off without overdue fanfare. Some races tend to drag out their opening remarks thanking every corporate sponsor and elected official. The Morgantown Race Director kept it simple, patriotic and to the point. Thanks to this “Just the facts” approach the race started dead on time.
With any city-based marathon there tends to be a lot of twists and turns as you navigate, residential streets, greenways, waterfronts, and commercial zones. This course was well laid out and easy to navigate. As someone who finds it easy to get lost…I never questioned which way the Morgantown Marathon route traveled. Every turn was well marked with signs at the intersections and yellow arrows painted on the road surface. Where the street crossings may have gotten congested with traffic, numerous course marshals were on hand to direct traffic, ensure the safety of the field and encourage the runners. I never once felt like I could make a wrong turn nor in danger from the traffic. “Thank you to all the Volunteers…..”
At each mile marker along the course, there were “Hero Mile” signs dedicated to honoring our military heroes. A major benefactor of the race is the nonprofit Operation Welcome Home, an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families overcome barriers to employment.
The web site promised water stations every 2-miles…well, they may have over-delivered. On a sweltering day, I’m sure that was a survivor for some. The aid station volunteers were very helpful having water and Gatorade at the ready. A bonus was the high energy support the volunteers provided in the latter stages of the race when an encouraging word or upbeat attitude can help renew someone’s race vigor.
Looking to find that extra edge during your next marathon or any race for that matter? Check out my book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter) available on Amazon and this blog.
#Yesitshilly When I got home I reviewed my Strava data and surprisingly found that the analytics for the race only reflected 1572 feet of gain. With legs still reeling from the days’ effort, I thought for sure the elevation profile would have reflected more vertical.
From the start, the race features numerous rolling hills leading up to a sustained climb starting around mile 6 which builds up to a rapid and quad killing downhill at mile 9. From here to the halfway point were more rolling hills and another rapid downhill into the 13.1 benchmark. Surviving this opening act the in middle miles featured a “relatively” flat section that allowed for some upbeat running.
A laughingly but not funny 20th mile aka “The Wall” appeared right at the entrance to a cemetery. I considered making it my “final pitstop” but I had fought too hard to get to this point I wasn’t going to be laid to rest just yet. At another round of rolling hills from miles, 17 to 22 led up to the last challenge of the day.
The Morgantown Marathon course builds up to a final crescendo when you face perhaps the hardest closing mile of all the 65 races of marathon plus distance I’ve run. After the flattest section of the day, mile-25 features a gut-wrenching trek uphill. Not your cookie-cutter course this race has character, this course has spirit and this course proves that until the bitter end.
#Conquerthiscourse This race will challenge you. This race will challenge if not with its pure vertical, then with the unrelenting fact that it’s not flat.
#RunMotown The rolling terrain takes a toll on your legs. lungs and authors a marathon story worth telling.
Stumbling through the finishers chute I was very relieved to be finished, fini, complete, finito, done and very happy to be greeted by a cold drink, wonderful finisher medal and unlimited slices of pizza! The finish line featured a mini beer garden, food tent and some local vendors. Just like my morning shuttle experience, transportation back to my car was quick and easy. Stepping off the bus I put a stamp on my Morgantown Marathon Day!
I would recommend this race for anyone looking for a challenge, to anyone looking for a race with some character, or someone looking to break out of the cookie-cutter marathon experience. If you’re looking for a BQ or your next PR…dial in your fitness, get your legs in shape and you could post an epic time on a challenging course.
In full disclosure, I ran this race as a Race Ambassador, I received a free entry into the race for my honest review of my race day experience. This did not influence my review.