National College Blue Ridge Marathon Toughens Course; Issues Challenge to Tucson’s Mount Lemmon Race
Organizers have added a third peak to the course and staked claim to the title of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon.”
Roanoke, Va. (December 28, 2010) – Organizers of the National College Blue Ridge Marathon, America’s Toughest Road Marathon, today announced that a third significant climb and descent have been added to the already formidable course. The addition of a winding, three mile section beginning on Peakwood Drive in South Roanoke brings the event’s elevation change to more than 7,100 feet, approximately 1,200 feet more than the 2010 course.
“We had an overwhelmingly positive response to last year’s course, so we thought this was the most obvious way to improve upon it,” quipped Race Director Ronny Angell. The 2011 race will be held on April 16, beginning at 7:30 a.m. in downtown Roanoke.
In addition to the announcement of the newer, more difficult course, organizers issued a challenge to the Mount Lemmon Marathon, in Tucson, Az., which claims to be the “Toughest Road Marathon in the World.” The Mount Lemmon event features a formidable challenge, as it is entirely uphill with 6,000 feet of elevation change. “While uphill is difficult, a run that features long, steep downhill sections is more taxing on your body,” said John Carlin, co-chair of the Roanoke event, which features three long descents after each of the signature climbs.
Organizers of the National College Blue Ridge Marathon are willing to let runners decide. Co-chair Pete Eshelman is offering the winner of the October 2010 Mount Lemmon event an all expenses paid trip to Roanoke to run the marathon here. “We believe our course is the most difficult,” said Eshelman. “It’s one thing for us to say so, but let’s hear from the runners themselves.” Eshelman also said, “We are offering complimentary entries to anyone who completed the 2010 Mount Lemmon Marathon.” He also said men’s and women’s winners of the 2011 Roanoke event would be offered the opportunity to travel to Tucson to compete in the Mount Lemmon Marathon on October 23, 2011 – if they have recovered by then.
With the addition of the Peakwood section, runners will now leave downtown Roanoke, climb Mill Mountain and proceed to the Blue Ridge Parkway where they will make the 4 mile climb and descent of Roanoke Mountain. They will then return and climb the backside of Mill Mountain to the famous Star, and descend into the Valley via Prospect road. That was the end of the serious climbing/descending in last year’s event. Now that Peakwood has been added runners will begin a 1,200-foot climb/descent at mile 17.5 of the 26.2-mile race. “Not only is Peakwood an additional climb, it’s also steep and comes in a difficult part of the race,” explained Molly Bullington, assistant race director. “People’s legs will be tight after coming downhill from the Star.”
While organizers are proud that the marathon has emerged as a signature outdoor event for Roanoke in just it’s second year, they are also pleased to see that a large number of people have expressed interest in forming teams for the marathon or entering the National College Blue Ridge Half Marathon as either a runner or a walker. While not as difficult as the marathon, the half marathon option is “no walk in the park,” said Angel.
Organizers also announced that men’s and women’s winners of the 2011 Marathon would once again receive Tag Heuer watches provided by race sponsor Fink’s Jewelers. Eshelman also said plans would also soon be announced for other events associated with the marathon designed to create more of a festival atmosphere on race day.
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About the National College Blue Ridge Marathon: The National College Blue Ridge Marathon was created by a group of runners and outdoor enthusiasts who share equal enthusiasm for the Roanoke Valley of Virginia. A portion of the event takes place on the Blue Ridge Parkway and proceeds from the marathon benefit the non-profit Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.