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.
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.
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.
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.
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.