Blue Ridge Marathon organizers alter course, announce kids race

By Mark Taylor Organizers of the inaugural Blue Ridge Marathon on the Parkway have changed the race's course.

But they didn't make it easier.

Race director Ronny Angel said today that he has had to alter the final few miles of the course – but leaving alone the course's signature massive climbs – because he was concerned that work to replace the low-water bridge over the Roanoke River between Wasena Park and Smith Park would not be complete by race day, April 24.

The original course had runners follow the Roanoke River Greenway from the River's Edge Sports Complex upstream to the greenway's northern terminus at Wasena Park, but the unfinished bridge is in the middle of that section of the greenway.

Angel said the new route will take runners back across the river to the Old Southwest neighborhood on Franklin Road, and then cross back over the Main Street Bridge for a short jaunt though Wasena before recrossing the river for the final couple miles through Roanoke.

Angel said he plans to map the new route this weekend and put the new route on the marathon's Web site by early next week.

Even if the bridge work is complete by race day the race will remain on the new course, Angel said.

As of today, 248 runners had entered the marathon and 181 were signed up for the half-marathon.

Also today, race officials and leaders from the YMCA of Roanoke Valley announced the YMCA Kids Marathon, which is for students in kindergarten to fifth grade and will be held in conjunction with the race.

Kids who sign up will run 25.2 miles between now and race day, logging their progress. On race day at 8 a.m., shortly after participants in the half marathon and full marathon start, kids marathon participants will run the final mile of the race course.

YMCA executive director Cal Johnson said he hopes the event inspires kids.

Our hope is that it will become a lifestyle for them, he said. Not just an event.

The entry fee for the YMCA Kids Marathon is $20. The first 300 kids to sign up with receive a pedometer to help track their mileage. All participants will get a race T-shirt and finisher's medal.