Revisiting Wine Country

The President of Destination Races, Matt Dockstader, contacted me last month regarding my post Why I Won’t Run Wine Country, in which I detailed why I won’t be running Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon in 2012. He was concerned that I was putting out false information and discouraging people from running the race. In his e-mail, he responded to some of my points. I’d like to share his perspective as I’m impressed that he reached out and took the time to e-mail me. On the heels of some recent big race snafus I think it’s a good sign that a race organization genuinely cares about what people are saying. I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything, and I stand by the comments I made in the last post (except where my information about the pre-race dinner was incorrect) and my original race report, but I believe in showing both sides of every story. Here’s what Matt told me, along with my responses in italics:

1. The entry fee is as high as it is (currently $118, increasing to $128 after Dec. 31) because the race costs a lot to produce and is limited to 2,000 to 3,000 people. In addition to the race, runners get a tech shirt, medal, wine glass, and entry to the post-race Wine and Music Festival. There’s also the cost of transportation, as the race provides shuttles from various venues to the race start. Matt said that the cost is not more than the more popular nationally recognized half marathons such as Rock ‘N Roll, The Disney Half Marathons and half marathons associated with the major cities.

In comparison, Shamrock Half Marathon (which is now closed) entry was $95 through the end of the year and then was set to increase to $105. Disney World Half Marathon (also sold out) was $140 – $160, depending on when you signed up. Rock’n’Roll USA (formerly National Marathon) in Washington, D.C., is currently $95 and increases to $110 in the New Year.

2. CCFA (Team Challenge) is only 27% of the field. Their private tent will be moved to the back of the festival at the 2012 event.

This information genuinely surprised me. It certainly appeared that 3 in 4, not 1 in 4 people were wearing CCFA shirts. Maybe the CCFA people gave non-CCFA runners shirts to wear? It’s good to hear that the tent will be moved. That was a big turn-off, especially as it was hot and they had these nice ice-filled wading pools.

3. Walkers were told to walk single file when the runners start to pass, but in VA they didn’t seem to heed that message.

I guess you can’t force people to do this. A little common courtesy is expected, but I think many walkers don’t realize that they’re impeding the flow or that people are racing for time. It’s best to have them start at the back so they can have their conversations without disturbance from runners trying to squeeze by.

4. We do offer more than a drink and a bag of chips in the recovery tent.

I honestly can’t remember what we were given, but thankfully Lizard Runs blogged about the race and commented that there were also green bananas. I have a feeling the food will be better in 2012.

5. There’s a fee for early and race day packet pickup because that costs money in staff, travel, and time. They would rather not do either but offer them as a courtesy, preferring that people come to the free expo.

The expo (free) packet pickup is only offered on Friday from 10 – 6. Rock’n’Roll USA, Shamrock, and Disney Half Marathons all offer free 2-day expos, although none of them offer race-day packet pickup.

6. The pre-race dinner at Morven Park is not attended by any CCFA Team Challenge members. They have their own dinner at another location. The race date is not driven by the availability of the venue for the CCFA dinner.

I was wrong when I stated that the pre-race dinner was a Team Challenge event. It appears that the information I was given was incorrect. Sorry about that.

7. The extra wine glass for wine tasting can’t be given out if the person is not present is because ABC mandates that organizers cannot give out glasses to the festival to persons under 21.  They need to be present so that organizers can check for ID and give them a wristband.

Sorry, Dash. Looks like Virginia ABC is to blame here…

8. In 2012, the new course will be closed to cars in both directions.

That’s really good to know and will greatly improve the race experience. No more angry drivers to run past!

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to contact me. I am sure the 2012 event will be an improvement on the inaugural event since Destination Races clearly cares about the runners’ experience. In particular, I hope that no runner has water yanked away from them by volunteers who must have been told “only one drink per customer.”  This happened to me 3 times during the race. As “fifty-states Phil,” who’s been racing in the area and all over the country for 15 years, said to me, “grabbing 2 cups in races is SOP.”



  1. Your an experienced racer and gave an honest race report the first time around…greatly appreciate the update.. it nice to know that the race directors care, so perhaps this time around they will make some changes, I am optimistic that they have learned from their mistakes, we all make them, but we don’t always learn from them. I think some of these larger company are starting to realize that they can’t just come in and put on a profit driven event. People are looking for an experience…it’s all about how you feel when you leave a race. Many deal with the pressures of modern life (traffic, etc.) on a daily basis, runners often times are trying to escape this, not be thrust back into it.

  2. I thought your description of last year’s race was accurate and fair, but I too am impressed that the race director contacted you. I signed up again, so I’ll let you know about the post-race food. This is definitely their last chance as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Wait, actually, I call shenanigans on the race director charging money for the expo being open during non-work hours. “Destination Races” are trying to drag us out to Leesburg and make us stay overnight, which is fine, whatever, but don’t tell me you’re doing me a favor. If he was really concerned about saving on staff time, he’d ONLY have race-day pick up.

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