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Things I Love Thursday - A Free Race

Something that peaked my interest recently is the Blue Ridge Marathon, which is lovingly called "America's Toughest Marathon." I'll pretend the reason I haven't signed up for it is because it is in Virginia and not because the St. George Marathon seemed hard enough although it is considered a downhill marathon (I still don't agree on that description). But just watching the promotional video footage for the Blue Ridge Marathon put little butterflies aflutter in my stomach. What is it about a marathon, any marathon, that does that to us crazy runnerds?

Here is what runners can expect from the Blue Ridge Marathon on April 21, 2012:

Picture this --- a cool breeze at your back, the scent of blossoming flowers, “purple mountain’s majesty” in front of you…and the SEARING pain in your quads with each and every stride down this effing mountain!

Don’t come to Roanoke, Virginia to enjoy a relaxing weekend; come to see just how much the National College Blue Ridge Marathon can kick your butt.

If you’re one of the growing population of marathoners seeking challenging marathons to test your mental and physical endurance, you may have noticed a rivalry quickly building between the National College Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, Virginia and the TMC Mount Lemmon Marathon in Tucson, Arizona. Both races claim to be America’s toughest road marathon. When organizers of the Blue Ridge Marathon learned about Mount Lemmon’s claim, they issued a challenge to “let the runners decide which is tougher,” and they backed their challenge by offering free entries into their race to anyone who had just completed the Mount Lemmon Marathon.

About 20 runners accepted the offer and hit the pavement this past April. After the race, organizers showed some southern hospitality by treating the Mount Lemmon runners to breakfast at Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles. Those who know Thelma’s would argue this was a bribe…and that may be the case. Regardless, after experiencing 26.2 miles of elevation change, pounding rain and hail, and a course that trekked through the downtown area, followed a river, climbed the mountain and took runners back down the mountain, runners were asked to share their experience. Here’s what they had to say:

National College Blue Ridge Marathon
Roanoke, Virginia
TMC Mount Lemmon Marathon
Tucson, Ariz.
Three mountains to ascend and descend, totaling 7,200 feet of elevation change.
Gradual climb of 6,000 feet.

Roanoke’s is tougher. At least that’s according to Tim Sykes. He won the 2010 Blue Ridge Marathon and came in second at the 2011 Blue Ridge Marathon. As his prize in 2011, the folks in Roanoke paid for him to head to Tucson and compete in the Mount Lemmon Marathon.

He won that too. “It wasn’t the race itself that helped me decide which was tougher,” said Sykes, “It was how long it took me to recover after the race that was really telling!

"I was able to run 40 minutes the day after the Mount Lemmon Marathon, [but I] couldn’t really run for three days following the Blue Ridge Marathon,” said Sykes. “Although Mount Lemmon was beautiful, very tough, and challenging - both mentally and physically … I’d have to say that the Blue Ridge [Marathon] is definitely tougher.”

You decide.Pete Eshelman of, an organizer of the Blue Ridge Marathon, wants you to decide for yourself. Receive 15 percent off the registration fee; just use the code “Tough”.

Roanoke has so much to offer visitors: wineries, hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, quiet countryside vistas, quaint boutiques, and restaurants for almost every palette, everything a guest needs to enjoy the beauty and serenity the Roanoke Region of Virginia has to offer. But for one weekend a year, we’re looking for the visitors that don’t want any part of that – instead they’re looking for the challenge of a lifetime – and we can offer them that too!

Or win a free entry. First, make sure you follow my blog. Then leave a comment telling me why you want to run this race. The most convincing reason wins. Please keep in mind the race is next month, on April 21, when you enter. Winner will be selected from an unbiased set of judges still to be determined (probably my husband and a non-running friend). Winner will be contacted and announced next Wednesday, March 28.


  1. So

    Because I'll wear my tutu & hope someone calls me "cupcake".
    I'm a fighter. Not a lover. ;)
    Errrrr something like that.

  2. Don't count this as an entry - I just wanted to say that I'm running the half! I did the half last year too...freaking awesome and EPIC race :) Good luck!!

  3. i wish i could do a last minute impulsive trip and sign up for this race/enter this giveaway. sounds so freaking amazing. dang it.

  4. If it was on a Sunday, I'd be guaranteed. It would be such a beautiful 365 mile drive.
    And I mean that.

    But we have tee ball.


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