This morning I participated in the inaugural Three Bridges Marathon in Crozet, VA. Crozet is just west of Charlottesville and is in the heart of vineyard country. The Marathon is hosted by the Ragged Mountain Running Store in C'ville.
I think there's something special about running a new event. You have no clue what the course is going to be like, and you get to be the first person to report on it (like me right now).
This marathon is the perfect, low key event, that should spark the interest of road and trail runners. It is technically a road race, but the roads are through the woods and provide beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. You also have some nice streams, which you will cross using three bridges(hence the marathon name) Three Bridges goes against the idea of the big city marathon. The starting field was limited to 100 runners, but only 30 people ran. This is a wonderful adjustment from the 20,000 at Marine Corps.
The course: Not very difficult, but don't expect a PR. This is a loop course consisting of four six mile loops, plus a hilly 2 mile spur at the beginning. This course may be hard on alot of runner's legs because it is a gradual uphill for 3 miles, and then downhill for 3 miles. There are very little perfectly flat sections. Some folks won't like the repetition of the loops, but atleast you get to see other runners.
Cost: A $30 donation to Meals on Wheels. Benefiting a great cause, and a low entry fee. This beats paying $90 to reserve your entry 6 months in advance for larger races.
Weather: It was 18 degrees when I woke up this morning. The race starts early, and the course is almost entirely shaded. It snowed 6" before the race. The temps were never above 30 degrees for runners. It's December, just expect it to be cold.
Aid Stations: gatorade and water. Honestly you don't need much else. They even had cookies at one location. Because of the loop course you get aid every 1.1-1.5 miles. I honestly got a little spoiled with aid so close together. The volunteers were amazing as well. A few of the folks would even run WITH you so you didn't have to slow down for water. I can't think of any other event where the volunteers were so active and cheerful. These guys/gals were awesome!
Schwag(prizes): If you're running this to win something, you're running it for the wrong reason. The marathon, suprisingly, has custom race bibs(not generic blank with numbers). The overall winner gets a prize, along with the top 5 finishers. Age group winners also get awards. This is very generous considering the low number of entrants. In addition to a modest finisher's certificate, I also got a nice pair of Under Amour technical socks for finishing 4th. Did I mention you also get a nice black bag, with goodies in it? For only $30, this event gives you alot.
Race Management: Low key, but very good. From the parking area it was a half mile to the starting line. Since it was 25 degrees, we were offered warm rides to the start. They even had vans driving runners from the finish back to the parking lot. An official race clock was positioned at the halfway point of the loop, and EVERY mile of the course was marked.
Final Thoughts: This is almost like a "fat ass" style marathon. In other words, it's not for runners who need alot of catering. If you want big shiny medals, a fast course so you can qualify for Boston, a cute t-shirt, thousands of fans to cheer you on, a pace group, and a buffet at each aid station....by all means, stay at home.
However, if you already have too many race shirts to count and you don't care about medals. If you want a scenic course with mountains as your backdrop. If you want an affordable event, friendly volunteers, and donate to a good cause.....by all means, run this event next year. I'll be keeping my calendar open.