MagazineFebruary 2012Best Races for Beginners

Best Races for Beginners

Runners stride under a canopy of spring blooms at the Monument Avenue 10K.

Whether you’re a rookie runner, biker, or paddler, a race is the perfect goal to propel a lifelong passion for your sport. Tackle one of these upcoming beginner classics.

Monument Avenue 10K
Richmond, Va. • March 31
Just right for first-timers, this road race features a flat course through Richmond’s historic neighborhoods on Monument Avenue. In addition to a mellow grade, runners in the packed field get the support of cheering crowds and bands along the course.

Smithfield Sprint
Smithfield, Va. • March 31
This sprint triathlon is an ideal entry-level race with a flat course. It’s popular with beginner triathletes just getting their feet wet as well as veterans using it as a checkpoint for training. The 300-meter swim starts in a pool, transitions to a safe rural and scenic 10-mile bike ride, then onto a semi-urban 5K run, finishing at the start of an all you can eat BBQ to make up for all the calories burned.

Mud Warrior
Ruckersville, Va. • April 14
Get ready to get muddy. Mud Warrior organizers promise you’ll be covered from head to toe at this 8K that’s filled with unconventional course challenges to keep you guessing, including a cargo net climb, barbed wire crawl, and balance planks. It’s a great opportunity to experience the exploding trend of obstacle racing.

How to Role a KayakGreenhorn Adventure Race
Flintstone, Md. • April 21
An adventure race designed with beginners in mind, this two-to-four-hour sprint requires teams of two or three to find a series of checkpoints by biking, trail running, and paddling across a flat lake. Although registration is not restricted, the race is held for novice adventure racers. No need to worry if you’re directionally challenged, because each segment is well marked, and maps are provided. While the course terrain is kept below the strenuous threshold, the race does involve a few fun challenges and surprises to keep you on your toes.

Dirty Spokes Trail Run
Gainesville, Ga. • April 21
Ditch the city and get a little dirty with this trail run just outside of Atlanta. Both courses of 5.3 and 2.5 miles start in an open field that leads into the woods with easy-to-moderate trails and gentle terrain for those looking for an easy way to jump into the trail running scene without the burn of most off-road runs. Forget running on crowded streets with car exhaust and come run on these well-groomed trails with stellar scenery.

TarWheel Century
Elizabeth City, N.C. • April 28
Known as the “world’s flattest century,” this 100-mile route takes riders on a blossoming spring ride through the historical downtowns of Elizabeth City and Edenton. Not only is the course flat and scenic with the smell of flowers wafting in the air, the race coordinators make sure the sweetness of spring isn’t the only thing tempting you. The completely supported century offers excellent snacks throughout the race, including tasty banana breads, deviled eggs, smoothies, and local coffee at the finish.

Catawba Riverfront Classic
Charlotte, N.C. • May 20
This shorter distance 9.5-mile loop mountain bike race is held alongside the Catawba River, just outside Charlotte. The single-track course holds a couple of steep climbs, but for all of you jackrabbits out there, opportunities to pass are aplenty. The event is held at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, so bring the whole family, as there are plenty of activities for everyone, from rafting and kayaking to climbing and zip-lining.

French Broad River Triathlon
Asheville, N.C. • May 26
This unique run-paddle-bike triathlon requires no swimming (unless you flip your boat in the river). The 1.5-mile run is mostly flat and follows the paved French Broad Greenway. Racers then jump into their boats and paddle 2.5 miles downstream, then hop onto their bikes for an out-and-back along mostly-flat Riverside Drive. Finish to cheering fans and concert goers at Carrier Park, home of the Mountain Sports Festival, a three-day medley of music and outdoor merriment.

Places to Go, Things to See: