Running your first half marathon? Casey Stephens is an ambassador for the Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate, and shares with us her journey as a new distance runner, and tips to enjoy the racing experience.

 

As a new distance runner, I was COMPLETELY nervous to run a half marathon. I had done 5Ks, 10Ks, 4-milers, etc. but those 13.1 miles seemed daunting.

What became instrumental in my training process was developing my “why”. Why do I run? What makes me excited to take on this challenge? That, my friend, is step number 1.

Mine is: I run for my mom. She is the most positive person you will ever meet; retired teacher, friend to all, church deacon, and also a colon cancer survivor. Diagnosed in January 2016, she has endured surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and is SUCH an inspiration to everyone in our small little town of Valdese, NC and beyond. My thought was (and still is today) if she can handle all that life has thrown at her, why can’t I endure those 13 miles? That almost seemed like nothing to me when looking at her cancer journey.

Once you figure out your purpose, everything else flows together and training becomes challenging and exciting as a growing runner.

If you’ve run a half before, are you looking for a beautiful destination race in the GORGEOUS mountains?

The Asheville Marathon and Half at the Biltmore Estate was my first half marathon race, and I am SO thankful that I chose this particular race to have that “first time” recognition.

The race course is like no other. If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina, this race needs to be on your bucket list. FOR REAL. SIGN UP NOW. The mountains are stunning, the people and BEER (in case you didn’t know Asheville is the U.S. Beer Capital) are fantastic, AND it gives you the opportunity to run beside America’s largest private home, the Biltmore Estate. When choosing to run a half marathon, this race is a no-brainer.

As a runner new to long distances AND as a first-time runner of the Asheville Marathon and Half at the Biltmore race, I decided that there were a few “insider tips” I wish I would have known prior to race date. As a researcher, I LOVE to know the ins and outs of something; all of the details.

So, I’ve decided to share with you my top 6 tips and tricks that will make your first time running the Asheville Marathon and Half at the Biltmore Estate AMAZING.

#1. IF YOU CAN, FIND SOMEONE TO GO WITH YOU AS A RACE SPECTATOR

(Picture from left to right: Me, Cat, and our sorority sister, Rachel)

Trust me. My friend Catherine (who had run her first marathon a few months prior) came with me to Asheville for the race and it 100% helped me not to stress on race day. They do need to absolutely love you, because getting up EARLY on race day is NOT easy, especially when they aren’t the ones with the “pre-race jitters”. Cat helped me stay organized the night before the race and during the entire race day. She reminded me to lay out everything (clothes, gu/other race nutrients, tickets, etc.) the night before so that I would have a more seamless morning. She also was my number 1 cheerleader – at mile 11 and at the finish line, she would yell out positive affirmations like “You are strong!” and “One step at a time! You’re almost there!” which was the EXACT boost I needed to push through those last few miles. She also held my extra gloves and jacket so that I didn’t have to keep up with anything. BEST. FRIEND. EVER.

#2. GO TO THE EXPO

I wasn’t sure what the hype was all about, or what an expo even was at the time (I was a newbie, remember?). But Cat encouraged me to go, and it was WELL. WORTH. IT. So many neat running vendors were there with the best nutrients, knowledge about which socks to wear, and oh, I forgot to mention, THE BILTMORE HAS A WINERY 🙌 so they were selling wine to commemorate the race. Of course, I bought a bottle, and decided that when I run the Asheville Half Marathon again the next year, I could drink that bottle and replace it with the following year’s bottle. The best decision ever.

#3. GO TO BED ABSURDLY EARLY & GET TO THE RACE SITE ABSURDLY EARLY

I promise you, I was in the bed by 8:30/9pm the night before. I knew I was going to have to get up wellll before the sun, so I wanted to make sure my body was well-rested and ready to rumble on race morning.

I woke up around 4:45am and left for the race site from our hotel by 5:45am. It gave me PLENTY of time to warm up, get my jitters out, use the bathroom (the line gets longer the closer to race start time), and not feel rushed, which stresses me out like no other. Waiting for the race, I met some of the COOLEST people from all over the country with all different backgrounds. It reminded me that we were all there to run this race and go through the task of completing this race together (see tip #4).

#4. THE COMRADERY AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS RACE IS AMAZING

The beginning of a race is probably my favorite part. Everyone is excited, nervous, and pumping each other up before the race begins. It doesn’t matter if you have been a runner for 20 years or a first timer like myself, everyone cheers everyone on. We are doing something challenging, together, at the same time and that made the sense of comradery even sweeter.

#5. RELISH EACH AND EVERY MOMENT ON THE RACE COURSE

The cows on the hill. The quiet mountain road. The French Broad River. RUNNING BY THE HOUSE. Take in EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. It is a truly beautiful thing to run with nature’s beauty. Those hills on the course that seem to never end? Remember, that challenge is temporary, but the opportunity to run this course with such beautiful scenery stays with you forever. Also, take pictures while you run. I sure did. Pictures of the trees. The river. The mob of people at the start line. Since not many (if any) of your close friends are running the race, it gives you a chance to show them the race from your view, and maybe encourage them to run the race next year.

  

(I mean, don’t randomly stop and cause everyone behind you to run into you or get injured, but sincerely enjoy each view along the race course.)

#6. IT IS 110% OKAY TO STOP RUNNING AND TAKE A SELFIE IN FRONT OF THE BILTMORE HOUSE

TRUST ME. It may look awkward to stop and take a picture of yourself in front of other people (at least it is for me) but I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime to be running beside this great American landmark. My family and friends thought it was so neat when I showed them the picture afterward.

Once you run the Asheville Marathon and Half at the Biltmore Estate one time, I can promise you that you WILL be back in years to come.

So, what’s your “why”?  Why do you run? Why are you excited to take on this challenge?  Let me know when I see you at the race!

– Casey Stephens, Ambassador