Virginia Running Festival—Race Review

Hello everyone! This is Christina’s friend, running buddy, and general partner in crime, Sarah. You may remember me from Christina’s excellent review of the Baltimore Half Marathon last month. I’m also an avid POTR reader (who isn’t?).

Recently, I ran in the inaugural half marathon of the Virginia Running Festival in my hometown of Newport News, Virginia. While jogging along and generally zoning out, it occurred to me that I could follow in Mike’s footsteps and guest post on POTR. This was before Christina graciously allowed me to do so, but the thought of this post kept me very occupied for a good portion of the race.  I’ll give some background, then pros and cons, and finally a wrap up!

Background: The race started and ended at Christopher Newport University (CNU) and took place during its homecoming weekend. From what I understand, there has been a 5k during homecoming for a while, and this year they added the half marathon and the Virginia Running Festival was born.

I grew up in Newport News, and my parents live about three miles from CNU. For me, a large part of the appeal of doing this race was proximity to my family, and the chance to run a race along the same routes where I like to jog when I’m at home visiting.

The other thing to mention in advance is that this race was TINY. So tiny that there were only 400 people registered for the half marathon. I’m not the swiftest person in any race, so the size had me fearing I would be dead last. Thankfully, that did not come to pass. Because of the race’s size, I evaluate some things on a curve. For example, the expo was of course small and didn’t compare in size or offerings to Baltimore, Shamrock, or any of the really large races. But, I thought it was great for its size, so I’d give it positive marks. Here we go!

Pros:

-Expo: As I just said, this was modest in size and scope but very well done. I got there toward the end and enjoyed some yummy food samples (thanks to Christina for alerting me in advance to the deliciousness of Sweetfrog frozen yogurt). There’s only one running store in town and it was there, along with a few other local sponsors. Parking was super easy, and the expo was very easy to get in and out of.

-Swag: This gets positive marks for me because of lack of swag. They did the “virtual” goodie bag, which I like, because I feel that regular ones are really wasteful. We got a nice technical short-sleeved tee, as did the 5k runners. Nice color, attractive design. Half marathoners received a finisher’s medal, which also had a nice design.

-Course: I have a lot of admitted bias here, but I loved this course. It starts and ends at CNU, with only the first mile or so and another short stint around mile 5 being on a busy street. The rest of the time you are running through nice neighborhoods with lovely tree cover and portions of the Mariner’s Museum park. The race went very near my parents’ house, and here’s a pic that my brother snapped of me running a few blocks away:

 

I should also mention that the course was very flat, as is the geography in Newport News, with a few small rolling hills. After Baltimore, it was a piece of cake!

-Course support: Really nice job on this for an inaugural event from all the employees and volunteers. Aid stations were well-stocked and manned, and there were plenty of people to direct runners.

-Crowd support: Here’s another area where I’m grading on a curve, because the race was so tiny. Most of the race is run through residential areas, and I was really pleasantly surprised by the number of people who were outside checking it out and cheering runners on. I think as the event becomes more established there is a lot of potential for great crowd support from people in the surrounding neighborhoods. Also, this isn’t technically crowd support, but I wanted to note how friendly my fellow runners were. I chatted with several people along the way and enjoyed it.

Cons:

-Pre-race: Parking was very easy, but there wasn’t a lot of direction after that. The website advised runners to be to the race really early, but when I got there the start line wasn’t even set up yet, so people were sort of milling about cluelessly. Also, there weren’t enough port-a-potties, even for a race so tiny.

-Race information/website: I didn’t think that the website had a great set up. I feel that all race websites are structured in a similar way for good reason, and this one just seemed to be lacking a lot of information that’s usually standard. For example, most races include information for spectators, but this one did not. Also, they did not have an easily printable PDF map of the course, which I feel is handy.

Wrap up:

It’s probably clear by now, but I loved this race. The cons were minimal for an inaugural event. Staff have shown themselves to be very receptive to feedback on the race’s Facebook page, so I feel confident that any kinks will be worked out next year.

If you’re a DC person, this is about a three-hour drive away, and is a nice alternative to some of the larger races in Virginia Beach. If by chance you went to CNU, definitely check it out—they really encourage alumni to run and even have a VIP tent for them.

Finally, I ran this race with my father-in-law, Tsvi. When I say “ran together,” I mean that we started together and then he left me in the dust, and rightfully so! He came to long distance running via triathlons, and his dedication is really inspirational. He also completed his first full marathon this year and it seemed like he was competing in a triathlon every weekend this fall. Look for us at future events, where I will be pursuing my goal of one day beating him:

Keep on truckin’, POTR readers!

Christina here!! Just wanted to give Sarah a little plug because she’s so modest… she totally killed this race!! She even got a new PR 🙂 Her bro took this picture of her crossing the finish line and I loved it too much not to include it. Way to go Sarah!!!

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