If you’re tired of being jostled all the way through a race, with hardly any breathing room to spare, have I got a race for you. This race, held in mid-November on the scenic C&O Canal just outside Washington DC, attracts only a few hundred runners, but its flat, fast course enabled over 15% of its finishers to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year.
The race is held on the hardpack dirt towpath running alongside the canal, on which mules had pulled barges down the canal 150 years ago, avoiding the rapids of the adjacent Potomac River. Today, the canal is protected parkland, offering safe haven to a variety of wildlife, including the giant blue heron, one of whom made an appearance on race day this year.
The race is a double out-and-back course on the towpath, with three aid stations offering sports drink, water, soda, and oranges on each leg of the journey. Two start times are offered: an early 8 a.m. timed but not competitive race, and a 9 a.m. competitive event. A half-marathon option is offered as well.
While running back and forth twice on a straight, flat, dirt road may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, the beautiful views of the Potomac River more than made up for the lack of spectator support – at least for me – and the post-race pizza wasn’t bad either.
All in all, a nice way to spend the last weekend before Thanksgiving.