I’ve never run the Richmond marathon course, but I’ve biked, walked, driven and studied it for years. The marathon has been a huge part of Richmond’s outdoors scene for more than 30 years and it is Very Richmond. Some of Richmond’s best scenery is in view along the course and if you’re not familiar with what you see, maybe I can help.
Starting downtown, runner’s head up Broad Street through the VCU campus along the northern edge of The Fan District. After passing the Science Museum of Virginia and Children’s Museum of Richmond, the course turns left in mile 3 at The Boulevard, where runners get their first glance at Stonewall Jackson on the National Historic Landmark that is Monument Avenue.
Not long after a right turn, the course passes the statues of Matthew Fontaine Maury and Arthur Ashe Jr. before crossing over I-195.
Miles 5-7 are through quiet neighborhoods along Grove Avenue and though Westhampton. A new twist this year is passing through the posh Shops at Libbie district before heading off to upscale Cary Street Road past the Country Club of Virginia and down the busy stretch that used to be known as Lee’s Revenge (when the marathon ran up the hill).
Then the course heads across the Huguenot Bridge and the James river. Catch a glimpse of the river if you can, but if you don’t, you’ll see it soon enough as the course turns down the scenic Riverside Drive to pass high-dollar homes and wonderfully natural river scenery. After passing Williams Island, the Z-Dam and Pony Pasture Rapids Park, a mile-long uphill climb starts in the 10th mile through quiet Stratford Hills.
After you pass Willow Oaks Country Club and the Powhite Parkway on Forest Hill Avenue, the count is on for the half-way point. The cours passes through the eclectic Westover Hills commerce area before the course hits 13.1 — Half-way!
Forest Hill Park gives you something to see for about half a mile before the course heads north through the beautiful Woodland Heights neighborhood toward downtown Richmond.
Once you turn left and head toward the Robert E. Lee Bridge to cross the James for a second time, you’ll get a great view of downtown to the right and Belle Isle and Hollywood Cemetery in Oregon Hill the left in the 16th mile.
This stretch of the course is long and flat, but runners are exposed to the elements and if the weather isn’t perfect, this section has been known to be a tough test.
After passing the Virginia War Memorial and the Oregon Hill neighborhood, the course takes a second turn through the VCU campus, Uptown and again skirts The Fan District. Don’t be tempted by the great bars and restaurants along Main Street, the Boulevard isn’t far!
You’ll pass the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Historical Society in Mile 19 and get one more pass at Stonewall Jackson. Next, you’ll hit “The Wall” as you run along The Boulevard and pass The Diamond in Mile 20, you hit the much quieter Northside neighborhoods. This is where the twists and turns and rolling hills of the last quarter of the course take their toll on runners.
The new turn at Lombardy through the Virginia Union University campus was added last year, and apparently worked so well that it was kept this year. Good, because it helps the race organizers, but bad for those that loved seeing Jackson Ward. Either way, after passing under Interstate-95, there is a long straight shot down Grace Street heading into downtown.
After turning at the Richmond Times-Dispatch building at 3rd and Grace, you’re almost done! A quick turn down Cary Street and it’s all down hill from here. You’ve done it!