TIMES OUT - Todd hosts New River Marathon in May
Runners have more than three months to train for long distance races in the spring.
The first New River Marathon takes place in Todd on May 7, with three races: A marathon, half marathon and a 5K.
"We wanted to put together a marathon in the High Country to appeal to a beginner marathoner, who is looking for a faster time to use as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon," Ken Sevensky, race director for Blue Ridge Endurance, said.
The course is fast and mostly flat with less than 1,000 feet of rising elevation and follows Railroad Grade Road along the banks of the New River between Fleetwood and Todd in Ashe County.
"It's fantastic coming through the New River Valley, with mountains rising up from both sides of the river," Sevensky said. "Rolling meadows, horse pastures, cattle farms and Christmas tree farms - it's spectacular scenery for a marathon."
Runners from along the East Coast, from Florida to New York, have registered for the marathon, though most of the runners reside in North Carolina.
Laura Watson, 34, of Laurel Springs is excited about a new footrace in the High Country.
She didn't get serious about running until 2009, and in the fall of 2010, she ran her first marathon. She will race in May, but isn't sure if she will run the half or full marathon.
"I am running a half marathon at the end of March, and I wanted to see how that went before deciding for the New River (race)," Watson said.
For a marathon to be a true marathon, the 26 miles and 385 yard distance must be certified by USA Track and Field. As of right now, New River Marathon's certification is pending, but Sevensky is confident they will have official certification in the coming weeks for all three races.
"Rather than have it measured, we want it certified," he said. "If people are coming out and putting in that kind of effort, they need to know they ran a true, legitimate (time)."
People who run for 26 miles without stopping are a different breed. Marathons take hours to complete, but runners will train for years with hopes of finishing.
There will be no riches or fame at the finish line - only self gratification for those pushing their body to the limit.
During endurance races, mental toughness is as critical as physical fitness and pacing oneself. For Watson, the 18-mile mark is where she begins to question herself.
"I think mile 18 is the point when I am like, 'Why am I still out here?' At that point, the challenge is really exciting for me," she said. "I think once you get over the hump, the final miles feel really good, because you are close to the finish (line)."
For motivation, she carries a list with names of friends and relatives. When the finish line seems too far away, she thinks about the list and dedicates the grueling miles to certain loved ones.
"It's dorky, I guess, but that keeps me going," Watson said.
The New River Marathon on May 7 begins and ends at the Riverside Restaurant near Todd. The marathon starts at 7:30 a.m., with a six-hour time limit. The half marathon starts at 7:45 a.m., and the 5K begins at 8 a.m. The event is rain or shine. Runners who register before March 1 receive an early bird discount.
The New River Marathon is organized and directed by Blue Ridge Endurance LLC. For more information, call Ken or Kristin Sevensky at (336) 877-8888. For registration, maps and race day logistics, click to http://www.newrivermarathon.com.