Why I Won't Run Wine Country

VA Wine Country Half Marathon entry opens today. 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.  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. 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.


  1. Lisa McClellan says:

    Thanks for information Alison… sometimes all that glitters is not gold.

  2. After I registered I remembered about the Team Challenge members!!! 🙂 Yeah, I was the one who bought the extra glass and I had to become a huge beeyotch in order to get her to give it to me. BUT, I need another poster from it for our bar area!

    Also, the difficulty you had getting the awards for you and your team.

    That being said, we had fun post-race, so we’re in again! We’ll miss you, but maybe you can come to the post-race party? Good times!

    • You’re right about the post-run fun. Just a pain to go through all that disastrous mess to get to it! I’ll be doing North Face 50K that weekend instead. 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad to have the full scoop.

    People can sign up with their eyes wide open (or opt for a better choice for their preferences). Sometimes, the big event is way more pain than pleasure.

  4. Thanks for posting this (and your previous review) … I have been talking about running this – but I was shocked by the race entry ($118 for a half?! WTF?!) …. glad to have your feedback. I will be taking this one of my to-run list.

    • Hi Barbie – happy to help! You have a long bucket list! I can highly recommend Philadelphia half marathon. You run through the city so there’s lots of fun sights. Bit of a killer hill around mile 9/10 but nice downhill. I heard the marathon is also good. The Shamrock marathon weekend is a lot of fun. The races themselves are on windy courses and it can be chilly. The half marathon course goes through Fort Story which doesn’t allow non-military spectators on base, so it’s a bit of a dead spot spectator-wise, but the supporters that are there are great. National marathon and half are great courses but the organization has been lacking the last couple of years – waiting to see if Rock and Roll improves things next year. Good luck with your races!

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