Blue Ridge Marathon Celebrates 10 Years of Running America’s Toughest Road Race
At the starting line on April 13, there will be 14 people who will be tackling their 10th Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon.
It will be a different path, so to speak, as America’s Toughest Road Marathon continues to evolve. The 2010 race was a small, one-day, home-grown event that drew 942 runners and had a finish line tucked into an alley. In 2019, it is the Roanoke region’s premier event and spans four days, draws more than 2,750 runners, includes seven race options, and is part of a weekend music festival.
More than 14,000 runners from 46 states and 23 countries have crossed the finish line since 2010. A social media campaign is underway to get runners from all 50 U.S. states for the 2019 race.
The new “Slow-K” on April 14 will celebrate everyone’s accomplishments and allow for runner recovery. The 5K will have a leisurely start at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 14, at the River’s Edge Sports Complex. Anyone can participate. Registration is $15 through March 13. (Kids can participate for half price and eat all the treats they want, but don’t get a coffee mug.) The race won’t be timed, but runners will get a Slow-K coffee mug and donuts at the finish. The course along the Roanoke River Greenway will also include a few other surprises.
“The idea is to create a race where everyone isn’t looking at their watch,” said Julia Boas, Roanoke Outside event manager, “but rather let them slow down and connect with other runners.”
Runners might see a familiar face along the course this year. Olympian and author Jeff Galloway is founder of the “run-walk-run” training method that has helped open running to millions of people. A U.S. Olympian (1972) and a U.S. 10-mile record holder (47:49) in 1973, he authored North America’s best-selling running book, Galloway’s Book on Running and was a monthly columnist for Runner’s World magazine for 21 years. Galloway is also the official training consultant for runDisney and founder and owner of Phidippides – the oldest running specialty store, founded in 1973. Galloway will be available at the expo and packet pickup, on race day, and at the Slow-K.
“We created the marathon to bring visibility to the region with a race that showcased our natural assets,” said Pete Eshelman of the Roanoke Outside Foundation. “Now, 10 years later, it has benefitted the region in more ways than we could have imagined,” said Pete Eshelman of the Roanoke Outside Foundation.
What makes the Blue Ridge Marathon special is the impact it has had on the Roanoke Region. “The visibility has been huge with national media such as ESPN, the Weather Channel, and Runners World talking about our race,” Eshelman said. Total economic impact is more than $4.5 million, and the race has raised $185,000 for dozens of local nonprofits that help the Roanoke Regional Partnership’s Roanoke Outside Foundation put on the race.
“One of the first-year messages was ‘don’t run this marathon if you’ve never run a marathon before,’” Eshelman said. “The race ushered in a change in Roanoke’s running culture evident in the weekly pub runs and training programs designed specifically to prepare a person to tackle America’s Toughest Road Marathon.”
“It’s an honor to support an event that has become a staple in Roanoke and showcases the region in a way that we can all be proud of,” said Foot Levelers CEO Kent S. Greenawalt. “We are thrilled to be part of something that has grown to find national and global recognition over the past 10 years. The Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon shows our community at its best – from the scenic mountains to the hard-working people, from the great culture to the outstanding business opportunities.”
Race weekend kicks off Thursday, April 11 with the Down by Downtown Music Festival featuring four days of live music at multiple venues. It continues Friday, April 12, with the Race Expo at The Patrick Henry in Downtown Roanoke. The Blue Ridge Marathon start is Saturday, April 13 at 7:35 a.m.