VA Wine Country Half MarathonÂ entry opens today.Â I ran the inaugural race last June. You can read my race report here. I will not sign up for this race again, for a number of reasons. I know I might get some flak for this and I want to stress that I’m not telling anyone not to sign up. I just want to make you aware of a few things that I didn’t know last year.
1. The entry fee is $118 for an individual, $108 for a team member. That’s more than most marathons cost. And rates go up $10 after Dec. 31, and again after April 30.
2. The majority of participants are running for Team Challenge. While I have absolutely no problem with this organization, which raises awareness and money for Crohns and Colitis, two chronic and often debilitating digestive diseases that impact 1.4 million Americans, this fact is not advertised by Destination Races, the event organizer. Almost all of the spectators are cheering solely for Team Challenge members, a lot of whom are walking in large groups, making it difficult to pass. In addition, at the finish, a huge refreshment/recovery tent is set up for Team Challenge members only.Â Â Everyone else gets a drink and a bag of pop chips and then has to walk past this tent to get to the wine-tasting area.
3. Walkers start first. I think last year they started 30 minutes early. This means that runners have to pass large groups of walkers, sometimes 5 abreast, on small country roads.
4. Extra fees are everywhere. While you can avoid them, and I did last year, here’s what the organizers want you to pay for:
– $10 for early packet pickup. I don’t know of any other race that charges you to pick up your packet early.
– $20 for race-day packet pickup.Â I don’t know of any other race that charges you to pick up your packet late. Of course, some races don’t offer this at all.
– $40 for welcome reception/wine tasting.
– $50 for pre-race pasta dinner. Note that this dinner is primarily a Team Challenge event. In fact, the date of the race is driven by the availability of the pre-race dinner location for Team Challenge members.
– $20 for an extra wine glass for a friend or family member. Last year a friend tried to pick up the extra wine glass she had paid for in advance, and was told she couldn’t do that because the person the wine glass was intended for wasn’t there. She was eventually allowed to take the wine glass after protesting that she had paid for it.
Some of the problems associated with last year’s race, such as the late start, may be alleviated because now the start/finish is at the same location. (Last year a bus full of runners went to the wrong winery.) I also read that the course will be changed to avoid traffic snarl-ups. The race caused some pretty bad congestion last year, and we had to run past about a mile of cars, full of angry drivers.
Of course, it’s a good idea to go into any race with eyes wide open. Know the course, know the setup, know what you’re getting in to. No-one wants surprises on race day.