About two weeks ago, the bestie (and her hubs) and I road tripped it up to God's country... aka Blacksburg, VA for the Hokie Half. We had a blast, and it was a welcomed change of scenery from our normal routes in Richmond, especially now that marathon training has us running them over, and over, and over, and over! It was also a nice little step down mileage-wise in between 17 and 18 mile weeks. Read on for my full review of the race... and I hope it goes without saying, but GO HOKIES!!
Expo and Packet Pick-Up: Packet pick-up was held at Blacksburg High School and was super easy. There was plenty of parking (although we did get there fifteen minutes before kickoff of the Tech game on Saturday, so I'd imagine most participants were already at a bar watching the game) and the line was smooth. There were volunteers from the high school to help you find your bib number on the wall and make sure that you got all of your packet items which was nice! There wasn't too much in terms of an expo, but there were a few booths set up in the high school gym for various sponsors like a Chiropractor and Sports Medicine office, as well as some Virginia Tech gear on sale and the biggest freaking Lularoe pop-up I've ever seen!
Accommodations and Travel: We're pretty used to traveling to and from Blacksburg, especially in the fall. From Richmond it's about a three hour trek up 64 and 81 and pretty easy. Keep in mind that Samantha's husband drove... and so i did what I always do as soon as I get in a vehicle for a road trip, fall dead asleep. There are several hotel options in Blacksburg and since this race didn't fall on a game day, it was easy to find something for a great price. We stayed at the Red Carpet Inn on South Main St in Blacksburg for $74... can't beat that! Obviously it's not the Ritz, but for just sleeping and showering, it was perfect! There are also great Air BnB options as well. Keep in mind that Blacksburg is NOT a large city, so you'll be fine to stay a bit outside of the town (like in Christiansburg) and still be able to move around easily with minimal traffic on race morning.
Course: If you've ever been to Blacksburg... or really anywhere in Southwest Virginia... then you'll know that the term "flat" is not something to associate with this area. It's one of the reasons I love Virginia actually, gorgeous mountains and rolling hills. However, when it comes to running, it can be hard to find a flat course (unless you're at the beach) that doesn't involve some big inclines. This race was no exception. While there weren't any massive hills (like the monster we faced in the Uncorked Half), there were definitely several areas of steady grade upwards, especially at the end where mile 12 was basically one long uphill climb to the end. But, that's what we signed up for and it wasn't TOO terrible. The majority of the course is along the Huckleberry Trail... an absolutely gorgeous stretch of shaded woods that takes you past beautiful fields and wildlife (as well as a bit of construction). While I wish we would have gone a bit more through campus and Downtown Blacksburg, the course was fun!
Ease of the Start Line: This isn't a large race my any means. It's small and intimate and awesome... which makes for a super easy start line. The race begins in a business complex near Lane Stadium and there is plenty of parking near the start line, as well as an option to park in a stadium lot and take a free shuttle to the start. We got there about 30 minutes before race time and easily found a space about a five minute walk away. There were also plenty of porta-potties (y'all know this is my pet-peeve when they're lacking) so that was a huge plus! As with anything Blacksburg or Hokie related, the atmosphere was happy, excited, and all-together welcoming!
Swag: This was my favorite part of this race... ALLLL the Hokie swag! This race gives you not one, but TWO awesome shirts and one ginormous medal. At packet pick-up we received a long sleeve technical shirt that was maroon and super cute. Then, at the finish line, we received a black short sleeved technical shirt for knocking out 13.1! We also received a massive medal... I mean seriously, this thing is basically the size of my face! No other finisher items in this one (unlike Richmond where you get more swag than you can almost carry), but great shirts and well worth the entry price!
My only qualm with this race (and I wasn't really sure where to put it in this review so I'll add it here) was the lack of race pictures. I LOVED that the race pics were free and posted on Facebook for anyone to share and download, but we only had one picture on the entire course (at mile 9). I would have loved to see more photographers along the course itself and a few more at the end to capture everyone finishing... you never who who has just crushed their very first half and will want to remember it!
Post-Race Party: Nothing major here, and that was fine since we had to get back to Richmond. This post-race party had homemade chili and post-run snacks as well as the one and only Hokie Bird to take pictures with! No alcohol, which was a slight bummer since there's nothing better than a post-race beer, but a nice little set up to wind down after the run!
All in all, I really enjoyed this one! I love Blacksburg and any excuse to head up I-81 is fine by me! The course was beautiful along the Huckleberry Trail and the medal and two shirts was a big plus! I would definitely run this one again in the future! Make sure to check it out in 2018, and of course... GO HOKIES!!