By Emma Castleberry
The 7th Annual Asheville Full and Half Marathon will take place on Saturday, March 16, and Sunday, March 17, at 7:30 a.m. at Biltmore. “We’re excited that the Marathon and Half fall on St. Patrick’s Day and we’ve really been enjoying bringing the spirit of the holiday to the event,” says race director Daphne Kirkwood. “Every year is unique and brings a different energy.”
The first race of its kind to come to Biltmore, the course meanders over the estate grounds through hardwood forest, meadows and gardens, with views of the Biltmore House throughout. Full marathon runners will have the opportunity to cross a bridge onto Biltmore’s west side and explore a portion of the grounds that is typically closed to the public. “While other races present you with monotonous scenes of asphalt, steel and glass, the marathon course around Biltmore provides depth and diversification: from the marvels of gardening and architecture that are the Estate itself, to lesser tamed, more challenging stretches that lie at the end of the race, along the rustic banks of the French Broad River,” says Kirkwood.
Participation is capped at 1,525 runners for each day. “The events are ‘boutique style’ races with limited participation, where everyone can enjoy the race experience without getting trampled,” says Kirkwood. Race ambassador Crystal Shirk says that, outside of the event’s location, its small size is one of the race’s greatest features. “The Asheville Marathon and Half are special for several reasons,” she says. “Everything is close, small and centered around a single, focal point. Daphne, the race director, wants every one of the runners to have a great experience. As an athlete herself, she knows what we want as runners when we come to a race.”
Brave Like Gabe is the charity partner for this year’s race. Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald is a professional track runner, sponsored by Brooks, who is living with cancer. The Brave Like Gabe Foundation allows Grunewald to share her experience with other cancer patients and also raises important funds for cancer research. Grunewald will be participating in the race.
In addition to Brave Like Gabe, the Asheville Marathon partners with a variety of local charities. “Many nonprofits will be on the course leading our water stations and vying for the cash prize for ‘Best Water Station’, which is voted on by the runners,” says Kirkwood. The expo and both race days will also feature a shoe drive for Western Carolina Ministries. “Our goal is to get 250 shoes donated from our runners for their Foot Care Clinic coming up this spring,” says Kirkwood. Other charity partners include Sky’s the Limit Fund (STLF) for SUWS of the Carolinas, YoungLife and Consider Haiti.
Race registration ends on Wednesday, March 13, but the public is invited to attend the race with a Spectator Pass, which can be purchased at the Race Expo at the DoubleTree Hotel on Friday, March 15, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Saturday, March 16, from 2–5 p.m. “If you are an Annual Passholder, you may enter the grounds during regular business hours, but will still need to purchase a Spectator Pass if you wish to enter Biltmore any earlier,” says Kirkwood. “The best places to spectate are along the French Broad River, near Antler Hill Village and around the West Side Bridge area. There will be great spots for family and friends to see the runner several different times during the event.”
The pre-event dinner at Deerpark Restaurant, featuring a presentation by Grunewald and an opportunity to meet the race director, is also open to the public. Tickets are $75 and all proceeds go directly to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation.