Author: Jeremy Granger
Date I Attended: March 12 - 13, 2016
Location: Asheville, NC
Website: Asheville Marathon and Half
Description: Packet pickup was at the Health and Fitness Expo located at the Double Tree just outside the estate. The half and full marathons had uniquely colored tech running shirts, a short-sleeved blue for the half and a long-sleeved yellow-green for the full. Both the half and full started and finished at the same location, near the petting farm in Antler Village. The half was completely on the public side of the estate while the full had 7 - 8 miles on the private side that are typically closed to the public. Both races are on a combination of paved, gravel and packed dirt roads. The full had more gravel and dirt than the half, the 7-8 miles on the private side of the estate was unpaved. Finishers received a unique wood medal and embroidered fleece blanket. Those who took on the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge, running both race, were rewarded with an additional oversized medal and commemorative running jacket.
Opinion: I can't say enough good thing about this event to do it justice. The Biltmore Estate is exceptionally well maintained, only participants, volunteers, and the cheer squads were allowed to enter the estate. Parking was easy breezy, and management closed the grounds to all visitors, even yearly pass holders, until the races had concluded. Another great call by the organizers since the estate can get congested with tourist's vehicles and buses.
The run was particularly well laid out. We ran away from Antler Village and toward the stables and Deerpark restaurant about 2 miles away. If you ever have the chance to have Sunday brunch at Deerpark restaurant, don't be surprised if it turns out to be your favorite, and one that you compare all other Sunday brunches too. Next, the pack headed down the hill toward the security stop/ticket house where we made a sharp right and began the gentle 2.5-mile climb to the Biltmore House. Once we reached the grounds, the course took runners up to the steps leading into the house. As you departed, photographers were cleverly poised to get a picture of you with the house in the background.
While descending back toward the French Broad River, our route meandered through the blossoming gardens, past Bass Lake, and over an artisan brick bridge. The remainder of the half marathon was along the roads paralleling the French Broad River, from a little south of the lagoon to approximately a mile north of Antler Village. The full marathon crossed the French Broad River half way between the Lagoon and Antler Village.
If you took on the full marathon, the west side of the property was a combination of gravel and dirt, or in our case, red mud from the rain that started to fall. Along the way, we were treated to limited views, due to rain and clouds, of their vineyards, small lakes, and the surrounding mountains. Unlike the gentle climbs and descents of the east-side, the west-side had a number of steep sections that challenged your quads and balance in the mud.
Once returning to the public side of the estate, we finished out the remainder ~9 miles along the French Broad River and completed our journey at Antler Village. Both races a had similar finisher medal, the full being larger that the half, that was made of wood with a metal signature "A" pressed into it. Each finisher also received an embroidered fleece blanket, which was a unique color for the half and full.
The post-race celebration was spread around and through Antler Village. They had everything you would expect at a major post-race party, food, beer, massage therapist, first aid, etc. A major food retailer sponsored the buffet, which seemed large enough to feed twice the field size. Awards, for both category winners and the Backyard to Vineyard challenge finishers, were handed out at the outdoor concert area in the middle of Antler Village. Lastly, leaving was a breeze due to the limited number of people who were allowed to enter the property.
Would I recommend this race? Without a doubt this was one of my favorite events, the course was immaculate, swag was over-the-top exceptional, and management made you feel like you were VIPs at a private event that you were lucky enough to get into. The only downside might be the time of the year. Spring tends to be wet in the Southeast and it notoriously rains or even snows a little each year for runners. I would jump all over the chance to run this race in the fall when it is statistically drier, and the trees are starting to turn, but I also know the fall is a busy time for the estate with weddings and tourists.