DART members Todd and Chad (yours truly) made the drive from Davidson up to southern West Virginia (along with my wife Laurie and son James) this past weekend to participate in the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon. Held annually since 2000, the marathon (along with a half-marathon) attracts runners from around the nation who are vying to complete a marathon in each of the 50 states.
Why does the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon attract so many 50-staters? A couple of reasons. First, as a participant you are entitled to claim this race as either your "West Virginia" or "Kentucky" state, as the races begins in Goody, KY and ends in Williamson, WV. Secondly, there are only a handful of marathons offered in West Virginia, so if you miss this one you might have to wait another year for your next chance. Todd is on the hunt to complete a marathon in each of the 50 states, so he counts this one as his "West Virginia".
There are other reasons for running the Hatfield & McCoy Marathon. If you like small, friendly races in out-of-the-way places, then this one is hard to beat. The route worked its way through southern Kentucky first and then turned northeast into West Virginia where the half-marathoners ended their trek in historic Matewan.
Though surrounded by hills, the course was generally flat, with a few notable exceptions. The climb up Blackberry Mountain beginning around mile six entailed a four percent grade, which was tough enough, but the back side with its six percent grade was really harsh on the old quads. At mile sixteen the asphalt road turned into a combination of gravel, mud, and rocks and continued for two miles. The final treat was a short but steep incline at mile 23.
As expected at this time of year, humidity was high but fortunately the sun stayed behind the clouds most of the time. For such a small race there were a surprising number of aid stations, nearly one every mile, and they were staffed by friendly and helpful locals. There were a few dogs roaming the course, but they were friendly. Todd reported seeing a snake on the road early on in the race.
The marathon finished up in Williamson, WV. By sheer coincidence I spent part of my childhood here, grades three through eight. I hadn't been back since then, nearly 30 years ago, and it was odd to see familiar landmarks through the eyes of an adult. Generally speaking, not much had changed. There was no marathon in Williamson back then, so as a runner I am glad to see that this event is not only here but continues to grow in popularity.