Thanks to the oft-repeated travel slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers”, most people associate the Old Dominion State with romantic getaways to rustic mountains. But this weekend, that famous nickname can change to “Virginia is for Runners” as thousands of participants toe the line at the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, 5K, and Mile in the Sand.
This year’s event will mark the 17th anniversary of one of the most scenic races on the East Coast. The festivities kick off on Friday at the opening of the Health and Fitness Expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The first race of the weekend takes place on Saturday morning at 7am with the 5K that starts on 21st Street & Atlantic Ave and ends along the Virginia Beach boardwalk.
At 8:30 a.m., the starting gun will sound for the day’s next race: the “Mile in the Sand” where participants will literally run on the beach, and finishers will receive a dashing medal, complimentary beer and scenic ocean views.
The weekend’s main event, the half marathon, takes place that next day. The 13.1-mile course.
“The biggest course changes for the weekend are the fact that we moved the 5K and half marathon to their own separate days,” says course director Ted Metellus, who noted that this new schedule will allow for more participants to run more races and earn more medals. “The start lines for both distances, the 5K and half marathon have also changed.” Metellus says. “These changes allow for better views faster running. You get some boardwalk and you some roads. You also get views of the city’s iconic Neptune statue. Runners can expect a flat, fast, and fun weekend of races,” he notes. Metellus advises runners to stay hydrated because it’s expected to be warm this weekend.
Those who will be first testing out the new start line for the half marathon will be a host of super-fast elite runners. Sporting the vaunted bib #1 will be Jeffery Eggleston. The 32-year-old has notched numerous Rock ‘n’ Roll victories in his impressive career, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Eggleston, who trains in Boulder, Colorado, has clocked a personal best of one hour, two minutes, and 41 seconds for the half marathon. He has represented the United States at the World Championships three times. Someone who could possibly unseat Eggleston at the podium is Will Christian, a local ace. The Norfolk, Virginia resident boasts a 1:05:10 persona best for the 13.1-mile distance and recently returned from a long deployment with the U.S. Navy. Evan Gates of Durham, North Carolina, is the third-seeded runner in the half marathon. Gates set his personal best at the Shamrock Half Marathon (1:06:12).
The women’s half marathon should be equally exciting. Mao Ichiyama of Japan is the clear front-runner. The 20-year-old lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado has a blazing 1:14:01 personal best for the half. Her rivals on Sunday include Alyssa Poremba of Chicago (1:17:59 personal best) and Nicole Aish of Gunnison, Colorado. Aish has a faster personal best than Ichiyama (1:12:30), but it was set nine years ago in Houston.
The weekend fun in Virginia Beach doesn’t end at the finish line, however. “We have the most iconic finish lines in the series,” says event manager Madora Mak. “What better way to finish than to see the ocean waves? Runners here can celebrate by partying on the beach and dipping their toes in water.” There is plenty of music in store this weekend, too, thanks to the partnership with the American Musical Festival that is happening in tandem with the race. “Runners have music all three days,” says Mak. “They can rock out all weekend long.” Mak also says thanks to the 5K happening on Saturday this year, runners can chase extra finisher medals. “We have so many different opportunities to run for extra bling,” she says. “I call it medal mayhem.”