New Year’s resolutions usually result in empty promises. Let next year be the exception. Signing up for one of the Blue Ridge region’s epic races is the perfect motivation for making 2013 your most adventure-driven 12 months yet.
Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race: Chattanooga, Tenn. • March 24
Get a taste of the city’s vast network of surrounding singletrack when you run this loop course in the Prentice-Cooper Wilderness Management Area on Signal Mountain. Choose between 10.2- and 6.5-mile options as you wind through the woods toward amazing views of the Cumberland Plateau. It’s Southern trail running at its finest. rockcreek.com
Charlottesville Marathon: Charlottesville, Va. • April 6
With four months to train, now is the ideal time to start preparing for a spring marathon. Make it a good one and get ready for this tough but stunningly scenic course that moves through the Central Virginia countryside. Runners will start in downtown Charlottesville and head out of town toward pastoral landscapes filled with rolling hills and expansive horse farms. A late-mile stretch on a greenway paralleling the Rivanna River will relieve aching legs, but along the way you’ll pass plenty of natural beauty to keep you moving. charlottesvillemarathon.com
Odyssey Wild, Wonderful 24 Hour Adventure Race: Fayetteville, W.Va. • May 18
This will certainly be one of the longest days of your life, but it will undoubtedly result in a lifetime of memories. At this annual adventure challenge, solo racers and teams of up to four members spend 24 hours traversing the tough terrain of West Virginia’s New River Gorge. You’ll navigate the area’s deep canyon country by trekking with map and compass, as well as pedaling steep singletrack on mountain bikes. Racers also get a hearty stretch of the New’s class V fun in whitewater rafts. It’s an epic test of will in one of the region’s most rugged wild spaces. oarevents.com
Ironman 70.3 EagleMan Triathlon: Cambridge, Md. • June 9
A popular qualifier for both the Ironman World Championships in Kona and the Lake Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship, this half-Iron takes place on a flat course in coastal Maryland. Despite not having to contend with elevation change, the distance is still grueling, as triathletes taking off from Great March Park complete a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. The field fills at 2,600 racers. tricolumbia.org
The Bear Run: Linville, N.C. • July 11
Don’t let the five-mile distance fool you. The Bear—held every year during the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games—is a serious running challenge. Legs and lungs will be burning as runners huff it from the small town of Linville to the top of Grandfather Mountain. It’s a relentless road climb in the heart of the North Carolina High Country that’s not to be underestimated. gmhg.org
Shenandoah Mountain 100: Stokesville, Va • September TBD (usually first Sunday)
A great option for budding endurance mountain bikers looking to conquer the infamous century mark, the Shenandoah Mountain 100 has become a rite of passage for serious regional riders. The loop course through the George Washington National Forest has some hardcore climbs, including a big lift on the Lynn Trail and the long 20-mile ascent of Shenandoah Mountain. But what goes up must come down, so you’ll be rewarded with bomber payoffs on Dowes Draft and Chestnut Ridge. While experienced riders have dubbed the race epic yet attainable, it will certainly require training for developing mountain bikers. Consider one of the three-day course tours offered by race host Shenandoah Mountain Touring. mtntouring.com
Six Gap Century Ride: Dahlonega, Ga. • September 29
Don’t underestimate the mountains of North Georgia. This is serious cycling country. Experience it for yourself with this ultra challenging route that takes riders up and down six of the steepest climbs in the Appalachians—bringing quads to the bonking point with more than 10,700 feet of vertical climbing over the 100-mile course. The ride’s hardest ascent at Hogpen Gap can break the will of even the toughest riders, averaging a seven percent grade for seven miles, with sections as steep as 15 percent. A three-gap half ride is also offered. cyclenorthgeorgia.com
3 Tips for Making it to the Finish Line
Grab A Partner
Enlist a buddy and train together for the big race. Having a partner usually means extra motivation and accountability, since you won’t want to let each other down.
Join a Club
Local track clubs usually have programs that will add structure and experienced advice to your training.
Don’t Go Overboard
If you’ve never run a 5K, maybe you shouldn’t sign up for an ultra. Be realistic when it comes to making a distance leap, and you’ll have better odds of success.