“This whole area loves to run,” declares Francesca Conte who, with her partner James Gill, operates Bad to the Bone Endurance Sports. Both have a long-time passion for running and organize running events all over the country. “Physical fitness is a huge part of life here. It’s always been part of the culture here simply because it is such a great environment.”
This is reflected on DailyFinance.com—a website devoted to helping readers “live a better life financially”—which recently named Charlottesville as the #6 healthiest small city in America. The basis: a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index including healthcare coverage, low incidence of diabetes and obesity, optimism, fresh produce consumption, and frequency of exercise
Marathon Is A Big Positive
On April 5th, Bad to the Bone will operate the Miller Lite Charlottesville Marathon, the Whole Foods Charlottesville Half Marathon, the Charlottesville 8K Run, and the popular Kids’ Mile.
“The Charlottesville Marathon was our first event,” Conte recalls. “We both had been professional runners—that is, we ran for companies who sponsored us. James saw the need for a destination marathon and we had experience in the industry, and knew many companies and sponsors. So we did it.”
The 2002 inaugural event attracted about 350 registered runners. And this year? “We’re expecting 2300-2500,” Conte says. “Many are from Virginia, DC, and Maryland, but about a third are from other states. We usually have all the states represented—minus Alaska—plus international entries.” In the past, runners have come from Japan, Sweden, Italy, Spain, and other countries.
“The marathon really kicks off the running season in Central Virginia and it’s such a great place to come in the spring,” continues Conte. “The New York Times named us as one of the top five destination marathons in the whole country and Runner’s World Magazine lists this is one of the Best Races in the Best Places.”
And who can argue with the beauty of spring in Virginia? “We have people who come, run, and stay to buy a place,” Conte points out. In addition, the runners and their supporters have a big financial impact on the area. Projections set that impact at close to $1.3 million counting hotel rooms, meals, and shopping. “We estimate close to $1million just on the Downtown Mall,” she says. “Hotels are filled early.”
“I have done this race twice and love it every time,” was the online post of an Alexandria runner last year. “The course is beautiful, the officials and volunteers are so nice, and the finish line is fun and lively. If you’re looking for a great, scenic run with great people, I would definitely recommend this race.”
Other Running Events
A very different event is the late-summer Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler. Open to runners and walkers, it raises funds for the UVa Cancer Center Breast Care Program. Last year set a record by raising more than $370,000—the most in its 31-year history.
“I love volunteering for the Four Miler Training Program,” says REALTOR® Sara Greenfield, founder of Charlottesville Fine Homes and Properties. “There are hundreds of women who join the program, get inspired, and get fit as well as contribute to a good cause.”
There are many other local runs and races. For example, Bad to the Bone celebrates Halloween by mounting the quirky Danger! Zombies! Run! Local running clubs also organize a variety of races.
“There are some great running clubs in our area,” says marathon organizer Conte. “The largest is the Charlottesville Track Club.” The CTC helps sponsor more than 25 race events in our community including the Women’s Four Miler, the New Year’s Day 5K and, the upcoming Charlottesville Ten Miler on March 29th. This year the event will raise funds for Charlottesville’s Barrett Early Learning Center.
“The Charlottesville Area Trail Runners are another group,” Conte notes. Members train together and usually meet for weekend group runs in various locations and terrains. Their website has a detailed list of more than a dozen running trails in the area including length, elevation, approximate time, technicality, maps and photos.
“Another great group,” continues Conte, “is associated with Crozet Running.” Crozet Running is a store operated by fitness devotees John and Michelle Andersen. Their website has a running-related blog and lists local runs.
Another store is Ragged Mountain Running Shop, which has been in business for a long time. Most local sports stores also offer running products. “If you’re new to running, it’s good to go to a place where people really know what you need for running,” Conte recommends. “If you already know, you can find what you need in most sports stores.”
In short, whether you are a long-time resident or new to the region, a marathoner or someone who jogs around the block, you can find races as well as just-for-fun running trails and companions in our area.
Marilyn Pribus lives in Albemarle County near Charlottesville. She once finished in the top 1500 of a 10K run.