ROANOKE, Va. – Calling it one of the toughest marathons ever, runners said the Blue Ridge Marathon was hard to defeat.
Separated by chalk marks on Jefferson Street and divided into 50 groups, nearly 2,800 runners laced up and took off.
With the coronavirus pandemic limiting physical interaction, runners like Daniel Montgomery from Lebanon, Virginia, gained more time to train for the race.
Montgomery said he runs about two to three times a week.
“I live in a place that’s very rural so I got a lot of practice during this,” Montgomery said.
Dressed in suspenders and colorful buttons, Betsy White, from North Carolina, was eager to run this marathon for the first time and spread a little cheer.
“Sometimes runners look like they are really struggling and then they see me and it just makes them smile,” White said. “It makes me smile. It’s just that we have to be there for each other and lift each other up.”
That’s the attitude needed to push through and complete this race as our own 10 News anchor John Carlin emceed the event and told runners, “you are about to be uncomfortable in America’s toughest road marathon.”
Tackling more than 7,400 feet of elevation on the course, many runners said it was brutal.
“Oh, it was crazy,” Sam Lloyd-Perks, the North Carolina resident who won the 10K race, said. “This is probably the toughest race I have ever done, and I have done a lot of races.”
Lloyd-Perks said when he saw Mill Mountain on his way to the race, he knew the course would not be an easy one.
Injuring his foot five miles in, naval member Aaron Spak, put in his blood, sweat and tears to ultimately win his first marathon.
“The uphills were painful and the downhills were kind of terrifying,” Spak said. “I thought I was going to break my angle going down so fast.”
As if the route was not difficult enough, 100 runners signed up to run it twice.
Grabbing their medals and water bottles in the end, racers said they look forward to returning next year.