The Run to Read Half Marathon took place at 2:00pm on a beautiful, wintry Sunday afternoon on January 5, 2014. There was no precipitation with temps in the 40’s with no wind, so I thought it was perfect weather. However, as the sun went down, it did start cooling off a little. The entry fee for the race was between $25 to $40, depending on how early you registered. The proceeds from the event went to the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County, a very worthwhile and deserving organization.
The organizers were hoping for 400 participants, which they came fairly close with 268 people finishing the race. The beginning of the race was very crowded on the narrow course, so another 100+ people would have made it very packed. But more about this issue later. There were runners from all over West Virginia and several other states. The ages ranged from 13 to 69, so there was a good representation in each age category.
The race was held at the historic site of Prickett’s Fort. It is a “rustic log fort and is a re-creation of the original Prickett’s Fort of 1774, which served as a refuge from Native American war parties on the western frontier of Colonial Virginia.”
The course itself is one of the unique aspects of this race, especially since it is held in West Virginia. This course is almost completely flat. The most gain in elevation my running app showed was 200 feet during mile 10, which for anyone who has run in this state knows that is very minimal. This made for a pleasant flat, fast course. A former railroad track, the course has been converted into a rail-to-trail to include bridges, a tunnel and beautiful scenic views of the river and woods. Less than 5 miles of the course was asphalt, with the remainder being crushed limestone. The park crew had cleared the majority of the trail of snow and ice the day before the race, so on race day there were minimal icy spots, and a little mud in a few places. The crew did an awesome job prepping the course to make it safe for the runners. 😀
The race was well run by the director and committee. The volunteers were friendly and always helpful and supportive. With this many participants, I’m sure it took a lot of work to organize it so well, so the race crew definitely gets a two-thumbs-up. The post-race event was awesome. Since it was chip timed, awards were handed out as soon as the winners crossed the finished line, so there was no need for everyone to wait until all runners had finished. But there was lots of great food…. including hot chili, fruit and more following the race. There’s not much better than a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter’s day.
As for how I did… well, I didn’t set a PR which kinda bummed me out since the course was so flat and fast. But over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I ate too much and didn’t stick to my training as I should have. So I paid for it during the race. I finished 212th overall and 5th in my age group, with a time of 02:23:11 (4 minutes slower than the half marathon I ran 5 weeks earlier). The bling wasn’t too bad… everyone received a finisher’s medal, and instead of T-shirts we got a toboggan and gloves. The toboggan had the Run to Read logo embroidered on it and is very well made.
I really liked this race as it allowed me to kick off the new year with a major run. The flat, fast course was a pleasant change of venue as it was nice for once to not worry about the hills…. you could just set your pace and run. A couple of things I feel could use some attention was in regard to the beginning of the race. The start line was overcrowded, and I was surprised no one was knocked down. On top of that, some of the speed walkers were in the middle of the pack, holding people up (one of my biggest race pet peeves!). I wonder if waves of runners according to past race pace could be set up so smaller groups could start at different times. If that’s not possible, at the very least it would be nice if the chip timing mat were at the beginning. Racers in the back of the pack have a lot of time added before they ever get across the starting line. Granted, it’s only a few seconds to a minute, but every second counts…. right?
Overall, it was a good race and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s definitely one that I will plan on doing again next year. Additionally, this is the first race of a three-part race series, so this year I hope to run the 10k and 5k (or possibly changed to a 1 1600 meter, I’ve heard) to get in the whole series and earn the series T-shirt. If you’re looking for a flat, fast long distance race in West Virginia with some history, beautiful scenery and competition, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed in the Run to Read Half Marathon in Fairmont, West Virginia. For this race, I’ve given a gold medal.
For an additional review, visit Sandy Runs. Her blog tells about her stories as a Marathon Maniac, Half Fanatic and 50 State Marathon Club member. It was a pleasure having her visit West Virginia and she gives an excellent review of the race.
If you were at this race, feel free to add to the review. What did you like the most about the Run to Read Half Marathon? What did you like the least?
A correction from the RD, Jim Woolfitt: Just to set the record straight: MCPARC (Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission) gets the credit for clearing snow off the trail & the parking lots. The parking lots are not under MCPARC’s jurisdiction but the park superintendent is not complaining. MCPARC also helps with the water stops providing manpower, tables, chairs & water coolers.