There are not very many races that I do more than one time. I like to experience ones I haven’t yet tried, and there are so many races to select from. Ukrop’s is one of those exceptions. This is the 8th time I have done this race. I think it is fair to say that if I consider the entire weekend, it is my favorite race.
My husband Bill and I left on Friday morning for the five hour drive to Richmond, VA, and went directly to the race expo. We were greeted by some women from Ukrop’s (the grocery store chain which sponsors the race) handing out free cookies. What could be a better greeting? We picked up our shirts and bibs, left the expo and checked in to our hotel.
Through sheer serendipity, our hotel was right across the street from one of our favorite RVA restaurants, The Capital Ale House, which has 100 beers on tap. We all know running goes with beer like peanut butter goes with jelly. They also serve mussels swimming in a smoked Gouda and bacon cream sauce, a favorite of ours that we look forward to each year. After dinner, we walked down to the river to sit in the warm spring sunshine and watch the sunset, then called it an early night.
Saturday morning, we put on our running gear, ate a light breakfast, and pinned on our bibs. Our hotel was about a mile from the race start, so we chose to walk to get our legs warmed up.
30,000 of our friends were waiting for us on Broad St. Even though the race is run entirely in Richmond, and 30,000 people are a lot for a 10k, the race organizers, Sports Backers, have this down to a science, so we never felt crowded. There are 40 waves. Yes, 40! You know precisely when your wave will start, so you can plan the best time to arrive at the starting line. Of course, there is a DJ there, blasting music, and a party atmosphere, so you may want to get there early and soak up the fun before the race.
The race announcer does a great job getting everyone pumped up before they start. He called our wave to the line, and we were off. We ran a short distance on Broad St., then turned onto Monument Avenue, where the majority of the race is run. Monument Ave. is a broad boulevard with a wide grass strip down the center. You run up one side of the grass strip and back the other. The course is almost pancake flat, and there is so much to see as you are running. Almost every block contains cheer squads like these Rockin’ “Grannies”, who were rocking out to some thumping music.
There are plenty of live bands and DJs along the way, playing every kind of music from blues to country to rock. Support groups from colleges are there to cheer you on (I even saw one from Penn State).
There are alligators bouncing on trampolines and a Tyrannosaurus rex running down the street. You almost forget that you are running a race. The day was warm, the sun was shining, and I was having fun, but it was not my day to race. I started out at a good pace, but could not maintain it. I finished in my slowest time ever for this race, and did not medal in my age group. This did not diminish my enthusiasm for Ukrop’s in the least, however.
Bill and I walked around the post-race festivities for a while, which included more music, food and vendors. We then went back to our hotel to shower, change and set out for our favorite Mexican restaurant, Nacho Mama’s, a 3+ mile walk from our hotel. The restaurant is in a section of Richmond called Carytown, which is full of funky little shops and cafes. It was such a pleasure to walk in the warm spring sunshine. The beautiful weather is one of the reasons Bill and I love coming to RVA in the spring. The first time we did the race, we left our house in PA in an ice storm, and by the time we got to Richmond, it was warm enough so we could eat dinner outside on the deck. We had a delicious lunch at Mama’s, and strolled back to our hotel for a nap. Our Richmond weekend concluded with us walking along the canal path near the river, watching another beautiful sunset, then visiting the Capital Ale House for a snack.
We have to come back and do the race again next year. Our 2017 and 2018 medals magnetically connect to make 2/3 of a circle. The 2019 medal, which will be given out after Ukrop’s 20th anniversary race next year, will complete the circle. How could we miss the 20th anniversary race? I am already looking forward to my 9th Ukrop’s 10k (and those mussels too!)
I am also linking up with Clean East Fast Feets for her Week in Review. Check it out for some more great reads (including some very yummy recipes!) and with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run. Love these running-related blogs!