Pre-race Post: Blue Ridge Marathon Packet Pickup and Expo

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Blue Ridge Marathon has been on my radar for several years but this year was the first that it fit into my schedule...and that I was fit enough to tackle the challenging event, which appropriately claims the title of "America's Toughest Road Marathon."  On Friday, after a fun day with the middle schoolers, I made the short trip to Roanoke to complete packet pick up.  Packet pick up was held in downtown Roanoke at the City Market Building, which is centrally located in downtown and houses numerous takeout restaurants including Queso Southwest Grill, Hong Kong Restaurant, and All Sports Cafe.  I'll address the location a bit later in the post.

In an effort to beat the crowds (mission accomplished) I arrived at the expo, which began at three and was open until eight, slightly after 3:30pm and walked right up to the table to retrieve my bib and a friends bib who was running the half marathon on Saturday. The tent outside of the City Market building is where runners picked up their race bib before heading inside to find the expo and race shirts. There were plenty volunteers (wearing obnoxiously bright orange shirts) giving directions and helping participants find their bib numbers for those of us that forgot to look it up before couldn't remember our assigned bib numbers.

After grabbing both bibs, I headed into the City Market Building to find the following:

(Click photo to enlarge)
For a relatively small race, less than 2000 runners for the full, half, and 10k combined, the expo was appropriately sized and had most things a runner would need the day before a race.  I headed toward the loft on the left where runners could pick up their race t-shirt.  I like that the race shirts are differentiated by color for the three lengths: blue = full, green = half, and yellow = 10k.  Too often race organizers make only one shirt for an event that has both half and full options.  I enjoyed running into my old advisor (undergrad) Linda Vick, who is one of the nicest individuals I've met and was volunteering at the expo directing runners and running the half the next day!

After grabbing shirts, I headed down the stairs to check out the "rest of the expo." Foot Levelers, a custom orthotic company, is the title sponsor of the race and had a pretty elaborate setup at the expo. Mounted on their massive display was a large flatscreen TV that had a course preview sped-up on loop, which allowed expo attendees to preview the entirety of the course in roughly 10 minutes.  I saw this for the first time at Rock 'n' Roll USA last spring, the race that I proposed to Michelle in the middle of.  You can watch the video of the course HERE.  The photo to the left shows runners standing on some type of foot scanning device...I didn't stay around long enough to see the entire process.

I mentioned earlier that the City Market Building where the expo was held also housed several dine out restaurants.  I found it incredibly cruel that the race organization choose a location full of delicious aromas tempting even the most strong-willed runner's self-control.  I'm quite proud that I made it out of the expo without a burrito, cheeseburger, or ice cream cone and felt that even if I didn't finish the race the following day that my self-control was medal worthy.

After taking in the vendors and grabbing a blue tote bag with free stickers, tattoos, and other misc. promotional stuff, I headed up to the other loft where Fleet Feet Sports had a vast array of running products. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo while I was up there shopping but my takeaway for the day was seven Vanilla Bean Gus for Saturday.  There was also the typical runner/race apparel available for purchase and they even had a Hoka Rep. there to talk about their maximalist shoes.  Of course, if you wanted a pre-race "hold your bib in front of you photo," which I'm guilty of having taken in the past there was a Blue Ridge Marathon banner to do so!  

On my way out of the expo, I noticed the local news was interviewing runners about why they choose the Blue Ridge Marathon.  As a side note, WDBJ7 did a phenomenal job covering the race providing live coverage of the race in addition to taking photos and creating time lapses of the event.

With Gu purchased and bibs and shirts collected, I decided it was better to call it a day and head home to get some pasta in my belly before the ensuing long run.  As I was leaving, I grabbed this photo of the newly completed square in downtown Roanoke.  This was a parking lot that was really convenient if you wanted to grab something from the farmers market on the weekend but the pedestrian square they replaced it with is very nice too!

I was trying to grab a panoramic shot of the square when the light turned green and the cars began to move.  Notice anything funny about one of the trucks?  It moved forward just as I got to the front end resulting in a squished pickup.

Although the expo experience wasn't as exciting as usual, partly due to Michelle not being there, I was excited and apprehensive about how my legs would respond the following day, just three weeks after my first 100 mile race!  As I was leaving, I snagged this photo of the banner that was hunger near the City Market Building during a brief relief from the storms we'd endured all day:

Traffic was just starting to pick up as I as leaving a little after four and the parking garage had quite a line to get out.  One note for future participants, the parking garage off Campbell Ave SE DOES NOT accept cards as a form of payment.  I only realized this, despite having been there 10 or more times(?!?) when I handed them my card and the guy gave me a frightened look.  Fortunately, there were a bunch of folks behind me so the guy wrote an IOU (which I plan to mail!) and let me go on my way.  However, on Saturday during race day parking at the garage was FREE!!! So participants find this garage next year and enjoy free parking two blocks from the race start.

Stay tuned for my race report including how I managed to take 28th overall after faltering in the second half of the race dropping from 11th place!


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