by Mariah Parsley

The Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate is an event I prioritize on my schedule every year. As an Asheville local (additionally graced with a Biltmore Estate annual pass), I am often questioned why I enjoy this race so much; WHY would I pay to run somewhere I can easily access ANY DAY of the week? What makes this race an absolute must for me? Thus, I happily comprised a list of the top reasons why the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate is my go-to race experience…

It’s like Cinderella’s Castle….

Whether you run the Half Marathon or the Full Marathon, all participants will run right up to the front door of America’s largest private residence, The Biltmore Estate. Built in 1895, this French Renaissance chateau contains over four acres of floor space (including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces!).

The buildings and grounds of Biltmore Estate have actually been featured in many major motion pictures, such as Hannibal, Patch Adams, and my personal favorites, Richie Rich and Forrest Gump. No matter how many times I have visited Biltmore, nothing beats the amazement and euphoria I feel as I hit mile 6 and run towards that mansion as the sun rises. It is Cinderella’s Castle of the Appalachian Mountains and it’s full of real world history and charm.

Closed Course Experience with Superb Scenery

The Asheville Marathon offers 8,000 acres of pristine nature ALL FOR YOUR RUNNING PLEASURE. Seriously, the entire course is closed to public during the race. That means literal MILES of you running alongside stunning gardens, natural bamboo forests, peaceful ponds, the French Broad River, FARM ANIMALS (including some really majestic Clydesdale horses…), all against breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all without the nuisance of random motorists forcing you to the shoulder.

I cannot say it enough: this course is FAR from boring; I never feel 10 miles fly by as fast as I do when I run in this race. And while some may yearn for the roaring spectators, I really love the solitude and power that comes with being your own cheerleader through the most beautiful miles of this race. Don’t worry though, your biggest (non-running) fans will be excited to meet you for that extra boost along the final mile markers!

Race day organization with all the convenience
I am an overcontrolled planner; it’s occasionally efficient, consistently annoying, and thus why I LOOOVE how well organized and thoughtfully convenient this race is for runners.

Do you toss and turn all night before a race stressing about all the logistical “what-ifs”?

What about race day fuel, stressing about how to pack it all or where to pick some up last minute?

I really hate having to lug around car keys, extra pre-start layers, don’t you?

Well DO NOT STRESS, my fast friends! This race director and her staff of volunteers have us all covered. From a seamless bag drop service, frequent aid and fuel stations (staffed by incredibly encouraging and energetic volunteers, sometimes in costume) with a wide variety of liquid, gel, and good old-fashioned food fuel options, to brilliantly placed port-a-potties — this race is engineered to be a stress-free experience for runners.

Big Race Excitement Without the Big Crowds

These races are “boutique style”, meaning participation is capped to ensure you have enough space to run as fast or as slow as you wish, all the while surrounded by inspiring comradery. I have been in the endurance running world for some time yet have never experienced such a group of energized and supportive strangers as I do during this event. This event seems to attract the best of the running community; and it shows.

Challenge Races!

Need I say more?! For real, what runner doesn’t love a challenge? WE LIVE FOR IT. I ran the Backyard to Backyard Challenge (Half Marathon on Saturday and again on Sunday) last year and am looking forward to pushing (and impressing) myself again in 2020. The opportunity to participate in the challenge races creates a unique dynamic that keeps us coming back for more. PR’d your Half Marathon time already this season? Now see what you can do with TWO!

Bored with the Marathon? Try a fun run Half on Saturday and nail the Full on Sunday. I really loved being able to push my pace alone on Saturday and run easy with a friend on Sunday, both of us fully justified to stop and take ALL the race selfies possible (see points 1 & 2).

Have you ran the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate before? What makes it a unique experience for you? I can’t wait to find out what you enjoyed most when I meet you at the finish line!