City Running Guide: Roanoke

This weekend Bride and I visited Roanoke, VA to attend the annual Capital District Kiwanis convention.  While the weekend is packed with workshops (one of which Bride presented), meals, elections and late nights we knew that we still had to squeeze in our runs.  We made sure to plan our schedule out ahead of time and were forced to miss some of the extra activities one afternoon to get in a few miles before our big run after the closing session on Sunday. Despite that full schedule we were able to get in nearly a half marathon around the city and we really got to see the best of the city and why it should be considered one of the best running cities in VA!

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 ROANOKE RIVER GREENWAY:

As I searched for a spot for Bride and I to run on Saturday I saw this nice path below a bridge near one of the new hospitals.  I looked up the path and found that not only was this a nice path along the Roanoke River, but that it was actually a 26 mile long path that had very few street crossings.

We pulled up and I was first impressed with the park around the path that included baseball fields, a play ground and other public land.  You could tell that the city had seen how great this path was and how to best use it to better the whole city.  After finding parking (there were ample spaces available) we headed out on the trail.  As we ran I realized how much attention had been given to the trail by the city, the non profits and the citizens.  Each 1/10 of a mile had a sign (like in the picture) that not only tracked distance but showed the non-profits that partnered with the trail to keep it in great condition.  (I am happy to say that most of the miles that we ran were sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke!)

I have had the privilege of running on some great paths around the Washington DC.  Many of these trails show the time, energy and money that the communities have put into them and the Roanoke River Greenway showed the same characteristics.  This path can stand up to any path in the DC area or against any other path around America.

 MILL MOUNTAIN TRAIL: Top of Mill Mountain

On Saturday after the last session of Convention Bride and I headed out on her first long run of her Half Marathon training plan.  The run was scheduled to be 8 miles and as we set out from downtown Roanoke we were not sure where we would end up.  I knew where the trails were and the plan was to head back to the Roanoke River Greenway and head the other direction that we did not run yesterday but as we ran our plans changed.  The previous day we drove up to the top of Mill Mountain to see the famous Roanoke Star and today Bride made the comment that maybe we should run to the top.  I knew it would be hard for her but she was excited so we headed up the mountain on another great trail. The trail ran up the mountain and despite it being very steep at times Bride made it and we had a much easier run down following the road.

This trail was well kept and you could tell that was used often by many runners in the area.  There were multiple paths including some that were paved, some unpaved, some leading directly to the top while other led to the monument further down.  Mill Mountain is a prominent part of Blue Ridge Marathon that is said to be “America’s Toughest Road Race” and it deserves to be, but the view of the valley and the city below is worth the climb.

ROANOKE REVIEW:  

Virginia is a great running state.  Richmond is home to “America’s Friendliest Marathon” showing how much its citizens embrace the race.  Arlington hosts the Marine Corp Marathon, known as “The People’s Marathon” where many people come out every year to cheer.  Even Virginia Beach took the time to make its boardwalk friendly to runners and other endurance athletes.  Roanoke should be seen as one of the best running areas as well.  Within a few miles you can run on a serene path along a river, or climb to the top of a mountain or two.  This combination is a runner’s dream that is hard to find in many other cities. I am very impressed with Roanoke and will look forward to coming back someday for another run.

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