Beautiful setting but brutal course. (about: 2011)|
Liam Frank from McGuire Air Force Base, NJ (7/3/11)
1 previous marathon
| 1 The North Face Endurance Challenge - Washington DC
This was my first marathon and while it was put together very well, I don't recommend it to beginners. The starting area was all decked out by North Face and other vendors and had a very energetic vibe. However, I don't think many of the marathon runners knew what they were getting themselves in for. It was well advertised that the water stops were only spaced out every 6-7 miles, with a few more closer together towards the end. So most people had camelbacks or bottle packs to ferry water. That wasn't the surprise. The surprise was that the course was only about a foot wide for most of it and extremely uneven with muddy sections and horseshoe prints that you could roll your ankles in.
The course was described as fast and flat, with a few quick hills. These quick hills were so steep, you could practically crawl up the trail. It was described as 'single track' so we shouldn't have been too surprised, but there were stretches where you literally couldn't pass someone without having to step into 5 foot grasses with nettles, which stung me several times during the race. At one point around mile 4, there was a stream too wide to jump. So you ran the 22 miles with wet feet which was...unpleasant. Compounding the difficulty, it was an out and back course shared with a 50k and 50mile race that were all going on at the same time, so you had to spend a lot of time dodging off the trail as they were coming back the opposite direction. They staggered the races so that they would all finish somewhat at the same time which was understandable. However, it meant starting the marathon at 9am in June. It got very hot, very fast and slowed everyone down. I think they could have put 1 hour between race start times to get the marathon started at a more reasonable time for a race that time of year. Just an idea.
Not really any room for spectators except at the turnpoint and finish line, but they were very enthusiastic and helpful. Food and drinks were plentiful at the stops with sports drink, gels, fruit and more. The staff at those stops were fantastic. The finish line was a big party considering it was a relatively small event. Around 1000 runners if you include the 50k and 50 mile. Nice Tech shirts with a silk screening booth so you could get your shirt customized at the end of the race, and tents with hot meals and massages.
This isn't an event I would recommend to anyone wanting to get a PR, because you won't. But if you really want to see how far you can push yourself, this race is for you. It is after all and 'Endurance Challenge.' Just dress like you would for a tough muddier race as opposed to a marathon. Overall, I would do it again, but I would train very differently.