Author: Jeremy Granger
Date I Attended: May 7, 2016
Location: Todd, NC
Website: New River Marathon
Description: The New River Half Marathon is an option for those who did not want to run either the full marathon or 5K. All three races are on the same day with slightly different start times. Race day registration is available with a slight price increase. Parking is located in the field adjacent to the Riverside Restaurant and volunteers helped guide you to a spot. The field wasn't mowed, so racers and their support team had to trudge through knee-high, wet grass to the registration/packet pickup tent.
The starting line is a small walk from the Restaurant, located on the opposite side of the New River. Runners experienced a mostly gentle course with scenic views of the surrounding mountains and the New River. The four big hills are challenging with steep grades and some loose gravel on the first two. Runners finished in the field behind the restaurant and received a locally crafted maple finisher's medal.
Opinion: The route along the river was beautiful and gentle to run, any inclines or declines were mild. The first hill, at around mile 4, was a brutal half mile climb and equally taxing descent. It meandered up into the surrounding hillside near mountain homes, didn't offer many views, and the decent was a little too steep for me to run all out.
The second memorable hill was near mile 7 and roughly half the size of the first. Again I felt like I was climbing stairs and having to watch my footing coming down. By the time I reached the bottom of this hill, my hip joints and arches were complaining and wanting to stop. Unlike the first and second major climb, the third and fourth were on the main road which was well maintained and free of loose gravel/pavement.
For most runners, there were plenty of aid stations that were spaced approximately 2 miles apart, and at least one port-a-john was available. Race volunteers were cheery and supportive, handing you drinks or guiding you at intersections with a smile. The cheer squad looked like it was mainly comprised of family members, mostly due to the remote location of the race. The finish line was nice, with an announcer, photographer and inflatable arch to run under. Once finishing, you received an excellent, locally crafted maple medallion, with a story of how it was made, and the after race recovery area had cups of water and food such as bananas and bagels.
As far as ambiance, there are few races that I have run that have been as peaceful and relaxing as this race. If you want to run a race in the heart of Appalachian country, then this is the race for you. No big buildings, minimal traffic, and your fill of babbling water, rustling trees and chirping birds.
Would I recommend this race? Maybe. The first two major hills I felt were unnecessary and may have been added for the sake of adding hills. They didn't offer any scenic value, winding around hillside homes with surrounding tall trees to block potential views, and their descents were too steep, with some loose gravel/pavement, to comfortably run all out. I wouldn't have minded the last two hills had it not been for the first two beating up my hips and feet. They were comparable in size, had views and were on the main road.
If the course designers eliminated the first two hills and ran us out and back along the new river an extra 1.5 miles, my recommendation would change from a maybe to a definitely. Also, it would have been nice if someone had mowed the parking field, that way we wouldn't have had to walk through knee-high wet grass and weeds. Lastly, registrants received, what I felt like, was an unwearable race shirt. Although it was an appealing yellow color, it was made of heavy, uncomfortable and stiff cotton. A thinner and softer one would have been better and great advertising since most of us wear race shirts all the time.