(Each issue I’ll be taking you on a run, back to the starting line of a now legendary local footrace.)
The Charlottesville 10 Miler, our oldest, most prestigious and storied footrace, debuted in the spring of 1976, as a new and unique addition to our community’s long standing Dogwood Festival.
The original course, designed by local ultramarathoner Max White, took the hearty racers from UVa’s Lannigan Field, across from the old University Hall basketball arena, out Alderman Road to Stadium road, into the woods leading out to Fontaine Avenue and then under the 29 Bypass and out along the steep gravel switch back Reservoir Road to Camp Holiday Trails and back again (see map). The roller coaster out and back course was extremely challenging but, since there were no other local races to compare it to, we simply called it a “tough” course!
The debut field of 225 young racers, most of them male and in their twenties and thirties, made history that April day, 45 years ago, for in crossing the starting line, they were signaling the beginning of Charlottesville’s road race journey!
Karen and James Beaver, the race’s original directors, diligently kept the race going with annual numbers ranging between 300-350, until 1983, when they stepped down. The new sport of “Road Racing,” especially on urban courses, was rapidly on the rise all over the country, so it was at that point that the CTC decided to shift gears and move the mostly rural course into the city. The CTC Board asked former president Dave Murphy, himself a sub-60-minute 10 miler, and myself to co-direct the event and to design a new city course.
With the goal of showcasing our beautiful city and university, Dave and I and several other training buddies, spent a few months running different routes before settling on the new “city course.” We then had to get it approved by the City and wow, what a task that was! Our city had never before closed the streets for anything but the Dogwood Parade, so this was a big ask! I nervously prepped for my meeting with the City Manager and asked Cynthia to join me for moral support. Turned out to be a smart move, as he didn’t know me (hardly anyone in town knew me back in 1983) but he sure knew Cynthia, who had just won her second Marine Corps Marathon title. After chatting with Cynthia, he graciously agreed to permit us to have the event but, just as we stood up to shake his hand, the City Manager looked us in the eyes and cautioned us with: “Mess this up and we won’t ever allow another footrace, on closed roads, in the future!”
Needless to say, thanks to the CTC’s usual well organized manner and a volunteer force of over 350 folks along the new historic course, we safely and successfully pulled it off. And, so began the next phase of road racing in our community: closed city roads for foot racers!
Holiday Hills 10-Miler 1981
The Pre-Covid 10-Miler (new) course.
The Old 10-Miler Course 1976-1983
And, as the race’s popularity slowly but steadily grew over the years, from 350 to 2600, so did the demographics. In 1984, the first year of the “city course” the median time was 75 minutes (7:30 pace), the average age of the participants was 28 and 75% of the racers were male. The ‘slowest’ person in that 1984 race clocked a speedy 90 minutes! Now, almost 40 years later, the median time is annually right around 95 minutes (9:30 pace), the average age hovers in the mid-forties and women make up about half the field!
Epilogue note: This year, due to the pandemic, we will be hosting this legendary event over the finely groomed grass paths of Foxfield. The course will feature two and half loops, each unique to itself, around this stunningly beautiful 175-acre property. Yes, the short grass will make the going slower than pavement but there will be less steep hills and no auto traffic. We hope you will join us for another unique page in the history of this iconic event! Register HERE!
CTC is organized to provide a structured organization for the purpose of promoting running as a sport and healthy lifestyle within our community. CTC’s support of non-profit running events helps raise funds in the local community.