A Run through History: Petersburg Half Marathon Race Review

Name of the race: Petersburg Half Marathon

Where: Petersburg, VA

Date: April 20, 2019

Time: 7:00 am

Distance: 13.1 miles

Terrain: Hilly loop course

Entry fee: $50

Swag: Technical shirt, finishers medal, free videos of start and finish line

Post-race Food: Gatorade, bagels, oranges, bananas, and pizza

Time: 1:51:51

Performance: Overall: 88/409; Gender: 19/188; Age (40-44): 3/28

Weather: 61 degrees, 72% humidity

I was looking for a fun half marathon to do in Virginia. I was about to settle on the Richmond Half Marathon (there’s nothing wrong with Richmond and in fact, it gets glowing reviews from runners, but I wanted something quirky), when I stumbled upon Petersburg.

Petersburg Half is a small local half marathon in Petersburg, VA, that’s put on by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. They started the half marathon to draw more tourism into the area and to showcase its amazing history. The best part of the Petersburg Half is that they stage a re-enactment of a Civil War battle! I literally got to run through history!

Ben and I decided (okay, I decided, and Ben acceded) that we would go away for the weekend. We both did a half day at work on Friday and drove to Baltimore, where we stayed at a Kimpton because it was dog-friendly. I was a bit sad that ever since IHG acquired Kimpton, this Kimpton no longer had big bowls of their famous local caramel candy for guests. We’ve stayed at that Kimpton before, so I had been very much looking forward to chewing on those delicious luscious caramel gooey goodness. At least, they didn’t get rid of wine hour. We had some wine and then ate pho at Mekong Delta Cafe that was in a nearby food court. The pho was really good and cheap, so I totally recommend.

Saturday morning, we drove down to Petersburg. Ben agreed to do a small detour because I wanted to see Kryptos, which is a sculpture that has encrypted messages. So far, only two of the four messages have been solved. This is where the story gets funny. So, I knew it was located in Langley, VA, where the CIA is headquartered. I even knew it was on CIA grounds. I knew as an ordinary citizen, I wouldn’t be able to get inside the CIA, but somehow I didn’t put two and two together because I still thought I would be able to see Kryptos up close and personal. Yes, yours truly and her beloved husband drove to Langley, VA to see if they could get inside the CIA. Sort of. We’re not that dense. I thought Kryptos was available for the public and that it would be located somewhere on the outside grounds. I was so so so wrong. It’s located deep inside CIA grounds and the security was not at all pleased that we drove up asking to see Kryptos. By the way, it is not at all easy online that Kryptos is not available to the public. You have to dig for that information. So, I’m telling you and saving you a drive to Langley. But if you have a CIA agent friend who’s able to get me an invite onto the grounds so I can see Kryptos, please email me.

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Alpaca selfie!

After we were turned away, we drove to the alpaca farm that I found on AirBnB. I’m mildly obsessed with llamas, alpacas, and baby goats. This farm didn’t have llamas, but there were several alpacas and Ben and I got to feed them and pet them to our hearts’ content. Alpacas are totally adorable, sweet, and  friendly. I asked Ben if we could take one home. He said no. Also, the farm owners were fostering two kids, and I even to bottle feed one! I love love love baby goats, so I spent a lot of time cooing over them. Ben wouldn’t let me take the baby goats home either. He’s no fun.

Now for the half marathon . . .

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I want to take him home!

I picked up my bib the morning of the race. There’s limited parking at the race’s start/finish, so I showed up an hour before the race to make sure I got parking. I found the hour to be enough time to get my bib, use the facilities twice (the long was very long and slow the second time), and go to my car to drop off stuff.

Before the race, there were plenty of re-enactment actors in costumes milling around before they took their positions along the race course. I took some photos of them. Then I went to line up at the start. I chatted with other runners as we waited for the start. There I found out that the race course had changed from the previous year. In previous years, the course went through the Petersburg National Battlefield.

Petersburg National Battlefield is historically significant for the Siege of Peterburg, which was the longest military event (it was a series of battles, and not one long battle) in the Civil War and led to the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Appomattox Court House in 1865. The largest unit of African American soldiers also fought here.

This year, the route bypassed the battlefield. I was a bit anxious about missing the re-enactments because that was the whole purpose of this half. I didn’t need to worry because there were plenty of battles elsewhere on the course.

20190420_070759.jpgThey set the stage off right by having a large cannon at the start line. In past years, the race started with the cannon shooting, but they weren’t allowed to fire it this year. Sad. I hope they get to fire it next year. The first couple of miles were on Pocahontas Island. Within the first half mile, I heard rifles being fired. Then I  could see the crouched soldiers among the tall grass firing at each other. Because this portion of the course looped around, I got to see this battle twice.

Several people asked me if I was worried about danger of getting shot by a rifle during this race. The answer is absolutely not. For one thing, I’m sure they were firing blanks, and not real bullets. And for another, the rifles and shooting were always pointed AWAY from runners. It wasn’t like we were running through a battle, more like we were running along side the battle. It was cool because commanders would be yelling instructions to their soldiers, who would run into different positions and fire. I was treating this half as a fun run, so I took my time to stop to take photos and videos as I encountered battles. The re-enactment actors were super nice and when they noticed I was taking photos, they stopped to pose so I could get a good action shot, before resuming their fight.

20190420_080208.jpgAfter Pocahontas Island, there were a few miles of boring running through Petersburg. This particular section was dull as we were running through decidedly non-scenic and uninteresting part of Petersburg. I worried that the best part of the race was done and the rest of the half. I need not worry because once we started going through the campus of the College of William and Mary, it was beautiful. I loved the lush green campus and its towering trees. It felt more like I was running through a national park.

As I approached Lee Memorial Park, I could hear the gun fire and smell of gunpowder (or something like gunpowder) in the air. More battles! It was very exciting and fun to run through this section.

The other thing I have to mention about this race is how freaking hilly it is! Definitely the hilliest race that I’ve ever done. The climbs were steep and I saw several runners stop running to walk up the hills. I, myself, debated whether walking would be better.

As I was approaching the finish line, I was pretty tired and I had to be careful of where I placed my feet because the last quarter mile or so, were on cobblestone. Even though I did do this race as a fun run, I didn’t run 100% easy. I just didn’t kill myself and I allowed myself the fun of stopping to take photos (something I don’t typically do in races). I asked myself before the race, which would I regret more – being a few seconds faster or not taking a photo. I decided I would regret missing out on a photo more, so I stopped every time I felt like taking a photo.

Much to my surprise and pleasure, I still came away with 3rd place in my age group. Yay for bottom-feeding!

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9 thoughts on “A Run through History: Petersburg Half Marathon Race Review

  1. Richmond and the surrounding area is very hilly! I have a good friend who lives there and a long time ago I ran a race (10 miler I think) that about killed me! Congrats on your speedy finish and third in your AG. My daughter also wants to buy an alpaca after falling in love with them in Peru.

  2. This sounds like so much fun! What a cool find. I’m impressed that you were taking pictures and still got an AG place. Congrats! P.S. Running with the Alpacas is brilliant!

    • Thanks. It wasn’t a very competitive field, so I had the luxury of AGing while still taking pics. I just came from Colorado, so Running with the Buffaloes was still on my mind.

  3. This sounds like such a fun race. Although I can’t help but feel like the “soldiers” should stay in character and, upon seeing you with your phone, say “Why doth thou point a small black contraption at us, is thou a witch?” (did they say “doth” and “thou” in the 1800s?). Anyway, very cool trip and also that alpaca is mad cute. Congrats on the AG! 🙂

    • Ha! I have no idea.

      I love finding small quirky races to do and being able to stay on an alpaca farm was the icing on the cake. We were close to not going, but once I found the farm, that pushed the trip firmly into the yes column.

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