Running for the Dream: 13.1 miles at Colonial Williamsburg

Arriving at the expo for the last half marathon of my summer road trip, my daughter and I were hit with a wave of nostalgia. We had been here when she was young, and the event, staged at the visitors center for Colonial Williamsburg, is centered in a city frozen in time.

The staff was exceedingly friendly and welcoming – giving runners their shirts and bibs – along with complementary attraction tickets included with the registration, and a pair of running socks from Soft Wick, which are wonderful and a personal favorite of mine. The value here was quite stunning, as the combined value of tickets for Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg is over $100, which is more the price paid for race registration.

We stayed at the Historic Powhatan Resort in Williamsburg, less than 15 minutes from the start and finish line. The accomodations and grounds were beautuful, and provided us with two bedrooms, a full kitchen and even a private hot tub.

Parking on race morning was at the same location as the expo, and a short walk to the start line. The Colonial Williamsburg fife and drum corps played as runners gathered around the start line, many wearing their shirts from the 8K the day before – which was part of the Patriots Challenge.

The National Anthem, sung with flawless precision by September Foster, cut through the cool morning air as Flag Bearers prepared to lead the runners.

 

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The course itself was nice, winding through the colonial streets and then down toward Busch Gardens and ending at the College of William and Mary. Runners received there medals and made their way a short distance to the Sunken Gardens, where they were greeted with cold beer and warm BBQ sandwiches. After relaxing and socializing, shuttles took us back to the parking area.

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Like many runners, we spent the afternoon at Busch Gardens, riding rollercoasters and enjoying the Food and Wine Festival. This was one time I wished we had a few more days there, and if I go again I will come early, participate in the challenge, and stay an extra day.

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Running from Water to Wine: The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon

After running 96 half marathons, it occurs to me races fall onto a continuum from support to beauty. Support races span the city scape winding through busy urban streets with enthusiastic volunteers and supporters lining the road. Beauty courses engulf runners in natures majestic splendor. The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon was most certainly the latter. This came as no surprise as the start and finish line were at Doukenie Winery, about 45 minutes from Washington DC.

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Before the race began runners posed among the grape vines and took in the stunning grounds of the winery. Getting there was easy, although with a single road in, most runners arrived early. Parking was organized into two lots… Both equidistant from the start and finish line, but one dedicated for the runners and guests who were staying for the wine tasting festival after the race.

The first four miles of he race ran on a closed course, the only crowd support came from several enthusiastic gentlemen outside Stone Manor, a beautiful  Bed and Breakfast (which appeared to specialize in boutique weddings on their grounds) at the 5k mark.

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From miles 5-9 the course turned onto a hard packed “clay like” dirt road. The highlight came at mile 6 when runners ran up a long driveway to Hiddencroft Vinyards, where the water was turned into wine for a very unique (and my first) wine “hydration” stop. Runners took one or two (or four) small cups of a deliciously sweet white wine and then quickly got back to the race.

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A sweep van drove the course at a 16.5 minute mile pace and picked runners up who were falling behind this pace, however instead of pulling them from the race it drove them to mile 9.4 where the course turned back onto the paved road. While there were very few supporters on the course – there were an incredible amount of medical personal and enthusiastic police and firemen all along the way.

The race medal came with a wine glass charm attached – a nice and unique touch. After the race runners who had purchased their Riedel stemless wine glass ($20) entered the finish line festival for an exclusive wine tasting. Local laws do not permit this to be part of the race entry fee so it is a separate purchase. I was not able to stay for the after party as I was hurrying off to the expo for my Sunday Race in Williamsburg, however I will have “another round” of wine with Destination Races at the Napa to Sonoma Run in July. As I made my way back to my car the audible sounds of celebration coming from the tasting room indicated runners were enjoying the festivities.

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This was the fourth running of the Virginia destination. Runners interested in this race may want to follow announcements on their Facebook page for the earliest notice Registration opening for the 2015 Season, and any special offerings for the 5th anniversary.