I still have a couple old recaps to post but I’m posting this one out of order because it’s coming up this weekend! (I ran it one year ago.) Have a great weekend, everyone!
When I arrived in Burlington on Saturday afternoon it was raining buckets and windy as heck, with a 28 degree windchill. The local paper’s headline was calling it a 100-year flood, and the local news said the area got almost 8 inches in the past week. I went straight to the expo from the airport, picking up not only my race bib and shirt but also some extra warm running clothing (which turned out to be a godsend) and even a waterproof jacket.
The second most striking thing after the cold, wet weather was how fit everyone at the expo looked. Now, this wasn’t my first marathon, but the people here made other marathon runners look like lard buckets. Everyone had that wirey “New-England-fit” look to them. You know what I mean. A kale and carrot shake (made from ingredients from their own garden) would be considered an indulgence.
Seeing as my longest training run for this marathon had been only 13 miles [2014 note – some things never change!], and my carbo-loading had been going on for months (if not years), I began to get a little nervous. I’d like to say my fears washed away in the rain, but it was probably just my body heat and mental capacity. On the morning of the race, after much internal debate on what to wear, I opted to leave the waterproof jacket behind and slipped a garbage bag over my head instead. I had thought I would ditch the bag after a few miles, but the rain really never let up, and any brief moment the rain did subside was followed by more wind and rain, as if Mother Nature were reminding you “b*itch, you in New England now.” If you’re deranged enough to run a marathon in the cold rain, you might as well wear a garbage bag for 26 miles.
Despite the weather, the first 4 miles were downright fun, the next 5 miles totally tolerable, the next 4 miles oddly long, the next 5 miles okay, and the next 6 miles were pretty dang tough. After that, the next 2 miles were sheer willpower. I had set a goal to break 5 hours, which is disheartening in itself considering my marathon times only a couple years ago in NJ and OR, but it’s really disheartening when you’re totally exhausted and realize you kind of have to push out those last two miles or you won’t make it. [2014 note – but 5 hours seems fast now!] So I (quite literally) gritted my teeth and slogged down the bike path to the finish, tearing off my garbage bag when I was 200 yards from the finish line.
Since there wasn’t much training for this race, the real story began after I crossed the finish. I was so spent and hungry I kept resting my hands on my knees in that half-bent posture that looks like you’re about to puke. I wasn’t feeling nauseous, just incredibly tired. After standing in a long line to get some food (excellent food, though – bananas, apples, oranges, yogurt, granola bars, PIZZA, bagels, chips, lemonade, and ice cream – with a re-usable bag to carry it all), it started raining really hard again, so I skipped the free beer (egads!) and went straight back to the hotel to warm up and finish eating. I can report that the cheeseburger and fries served at the Marriott Burlington were far superior to the other post-race burgers and fries I’ve had. In fact, all the food I ate in VT was pretty astounding. I keep raving about the butter and the chocolate, and the pulled pork sandwich I had on Monday was crazy delicious, with a perfect slaw and a nice side salad.
I was normal-sore immediately after the race (doing my typical ice & rest routine), but super-sore the next day. After a 5 minute walk down to the lake I had to sit on a park bench like a 95-year-old who had just run a marathon. [2014 note – I still vividly remember how bone-tired and stiff I was the following day. Obviously pushing to beat 5 hours really took it out of me.] But I was able to explore the town and eat a lot of good VT food before I flew back home – a very short visit for me. I was lucky the weather was absolutely gorgeous the next day, and I can see why people like to vacation in the area.
Thinking of the running the Vermont City Marathon?
I would definitely recommend this marathon if you’re looking for a marathon in Vermont. The expo was surprisingly large and enjoyable, with a lot of good sales compared to other expos (I even won a pair of socks but you needed to be present to win & unfortunately I had already left). The course doubled back on itself a bit much, but it was fairly scenic and fairly flat, went through a lot of neighborhoods, and would have had a decent amount of shade if it had been needed. The crowd support was phenomenal considering the weather! The aid stations were plentiful and well-managed, and the volunteers and police were great. The shirt and medal are both fine, but the food at the finish was quite good (despite the line). The weather can be all over the place (some years they’ve had hot sun and in the 80s), so you do have to be prepared for that, but the town and area are nice to visit. Overall, thumbs up, VCM!
PS I ran as a panda, but had a lot of people cheering for “cat,” “bunny,” and “Mickey” as well. Someday I will find the perfect marathon costume that leaves no confusion… Someday…
All categories on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best. Unlike the above which was written directly after the race, I wrote the ratings below in 2014, so they are subject to faulty memories and general disrepute.
- Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 6/10 – A $308 airline ticket from NYC (so close and yet so expensive!), followed by two cab rides (one from airport to expo, another from expo to hotel), did not make this the most conveniently accessible race. However, the hotel(s) near the marathon start/finish in Burlington are also right next to Lake Champlain & only a few blocks from the cute “downtown” area with shops and restaurants, so it’s easy to sightsee after the race.
- Staying There – 8/10 – At least two nice hotels right next to the start/finish area, but they were a little spendy ($232/night at the Courtyard Burlington Harbor, for example).
- Cost & Registration – 8/10 – I know I registered for the May race after the WDW Marathon, so no more than 4 1/2 months before the race (probably even later), so that was nice.
- Organization – 8/10 – The expo and course support were great, but the line for food at the finish was dreadful and crazy (the line didn’t even move so you were just standing there as your legs turned to lead).
- Course – 7/10 – Fairly scenic, with stretches along the lake and through a bike path/park area, and not very hilly.
- Crowd – 9/10 – While there weren’t an overwhelming number of spectators, there were waaaay more than I expected, especially considering the rain! There were so many people out there with umbrellas, cheering for hours, even for us back-of-the-packers – it definitely felt like the town supported the marathon (a sharp contrast to the Marshall “ghost town” Marathon in Huntington, WV).
- Other Factors – 7/10 – There’s nothing particularly special about this race, and although it’s right on Lake Champlain, it’s too cold in May to really enjoy the area. But the local food is great and if you get a sunny day the overall location is beautiful.
- Overall Rating – 7.5/10 – Despite the crazy weather, I have fond memories of this race, and I’d definitely recommend it if you need to cross off Vermont.
Have you run Vermont City? Did you notice how many people managed to BQ on this course? Share in the comments!