You know it’s spring when runners appear along the roads like early-blooming daffodils, preparing for a new season of races and runs.
One of the earliest and most popular runs in the region is the Dismal Swamp Stomp Half-Marathon in Chesapeake, Va. This year, runners take to the trail on April 8 for the 11th annual event. It’s popular for both its route and size. Only 2,500 runners are accepted for the USA Track and Field-sanctioned event, which means no gridlock or crowding.
Despite its name, you won’t be slogging through mud. The out-and-back route is on a flat, asphalt surface, easy for all levels of runners, and particularly nice for an early-season run. The race is a rain-or-shine event, but between the good surface and canopy cover from the trees along the route, it would take a nor’easter to cause any real problems.
The route is also particularly beautiful. The winding course borders the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and moves along the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. More than 200 species of birds and dozens of kinds of wildlife call the forested woodlands home, so runners will be watched, and perhaps paced, by herons, hawks, and curious critters. (For history buffs, work on the hand-dug canal began in the 1790s. George Washington, Union and Confederate troops, and the Underground Railroad all used the canal.)
Insider tip: This year, runners can enjoy real-time technology. They can get free, live splits via mobile devices, Facebook, and Twitter. Each athlete’s bib will contain a QR code that can be scanned with a smart phone. Results will be immediately available on the runner’s mobile device.
Each participant receives a custom race shirt as part of the run’s swag bag. Finishers also receive classy custom medals. Cash prizes totaling $4,000 go to the top five male and female runners in each of 13 age groups. For those whose knees are no longer up to 13 miles of pounding, the top three male and female walkers to finish the half-marathon also receive awards (but no cash).
The half-marathon is only one foot-powered activity that day. A 5K run starts a few minutes after the marathoners jog off. There are no cash prizes for the 5K, but each of the fastest finishers will receive a special award, in addition to their T-shirts and medals.
Back by popular demand, there’s also the kids’ “Cub Run,” a half-mile out-and-back route for kids 12 and younger. Parents are encouraged to jog along with their children. Each participant gets a special medal designed just for the Cub Run.
The action continues after the runners finish with a post-race party throughout the afternoon. Runners of legal age can replace their depleted carbs with beer from the Big Ugly Brewery. A local band, the Milk Crate Mafia, will put its own spin on well-known tunes with acoustic and full electric covers. There also will be a kids’ play area for the junior runners.
Registration is online at register.chronotrack.com/r/22706. There is no same-day or onsite registration.
For more information:
Chesapeake Tourism: visitchesapeake.com