My Asheville Marathon Results ~ Spoiler Alert

We are not going to talk about my curious absence from blogging this past month.  I just haven’t had enough time on my hands.  There is a ton to recap about each of the individual races I paced last weekend in Asheville, but I just don’t have the time right now to do a recap justice.  I guess we’ll settle for snippets, and results…..


Btw…I am still trying to gather pictures from the event, which I have to search for and grab/copy before my long recap posts.  But, isn’t this an awesome picture of the Biltmore Estate from a cool spot on the race course?

I had an awesome weekend in Asheville participating in the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge.  What is that, you ask?  Well, this year the race doubled down, and held the events on two consecutive days.  The Half Marathon on Saturday, and the Full Marathon on Sunday.  I ran both!  I paced both!

This weekend was all about having fun, and running my heart out.  Giving back to my fellow runners by pacing them to a specific time goal.  For the Half, I paced the 2:00:00 finish group.  A very popular group, containing all of those runners out there trying to get the sub 2.  The weather was perfect, maybe just a tad on the warm side, but me and my pacing partner Louis brought those runners in at 1:59:23.  Just under the mark!

I then refueled, and spent five hours working an expo table for the marathon the following day.  All the while chatting up marathon runners, taking gulps of Gatorade along the way.  Yes, I had a chair, which I requested!  After having run the Half, and having another 26.2 miles the following day, I needed to be off my feet.

Marathon Sunday came so very quickly.  Back at it, I felt good.  I was pacing the 4:00:00 group for the marathon, and the weather?  Not so good.  It started raining about 20 minutes before the race began, and would rain intermittently for the entire race.  I don’t often run in the rain so it was an interesting twist.  Pace the hills for 26.2 miles, in the rain, and mud.  All after having run a Half the day before.  I felt good though, and knew I could manage it.  About 10 miles into the race, my pacing partner Andrea fell off the pace.  Now alone on dirt and rock trails, I had to dig in.  Climbing, climbing, the often washed over mile 11-12 was grueling.  I maintained pace somehow without a helper, and in the quiet.  Runners around me, but no one with me.  I carried on…..

Mile 12 is when she appeared.  A 23 year old medical student from Iowa.  Payton was her name, and she was my angel.  She sidled up to my left side, and said, “I want to break 4:00:00 today, so I am going to run with you to the end!”  I desparately needed the company, so welcomed her with open arms.  We traversed the difficult trails on the backside of the Biltmore Estate through the vineyards, past historic barns, up and down, through the rain, the mud and muck.  Payton kept me honest.  We both almost fell a few times due to slick muddy spots, but I kept on pace.  On pace!  13, 14, 15, the miles we left behind….

We stayed together up to mile 23 when she began to fade just a bit.  I willed her to keep up, She just couldn’t.  She silently started lagging further and further behind me.  I had to keep going however.  I had a schedule to keep.  I had a date with the finish line and would carry whoever I could to cross with me or in front of me.  The rain ebbed and flowed, but my shoes kept moving forward.  3:59:32 was my magic number on the day.  Made it perfectly to the end, urging runners to beat the clock.  It was a magically wet marathon, one I will remember forever.  I absolutely loved it.  Both days!

39.3 miles, two epic days at the Biltmore.  Two spot on pacing days, to boot.  One day sunny, one day rainy.  Perfect!  More details and pictures to come, including why I love pacing, and more on Payton.  :). Happy running!


Asheville Marathon Maniac & Fanatic Discount

The world is full of all sorts of challenges.  Inequality, extreme weather and climate change, economic collapse, oil and water shortages, hunger, among many, many others.  Over the last 50 years the human population has nearly tripled, and with that come epic challenges that we all must face as inhabitants of this beautiful planet.  These challenges though cannot be overcome in a day, or two for the matter.  It will take years and years of hard work.  We may never see full solutions to these challenges.  Ever.

Wait…. this post is meant to be light.  It’s about challenges.  So let me change the focus of our challenges to the good kind.  Challenges we look forward to, challenges we take on with gusto.  Challenges we set out to conquer!

I am a runner.   My main goal today is to let you know about a new challenge for the running community. As the population grows, naturally the runner population grows.  We are an ever growing and ever changing group.  We are challenge seekers, and often find ourselves setting higher and higher standards for ourselves.  We can, we will.  Never give up.  A few mantras I’ve heard lately.

In working with the running community and getting to know so many of you through running races and social media, my love for our sport has grown and grown.  When I run a great race, I want to tell everyone about it.  It’s really the reason I started blogging about my running in the first place.  So, let me share with you some news about the Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate today.


This race has grown and grown in popularity in the last few years.  Why?  Location, swag, race course, yes, all of those.  An amazing event which has sold out each year.  For 2016, the races will be held on separate days.  An exciting weekend event.  The Half Marathon on March 12th.  The Full Marathon on March 13th.  But wait!  (Herein lies the challenge I’ve eluded to) Run both!  The Backyard to Vineyard Challenge.  Run both races on back to back days.


IDaph Events, which puts on this fantastic event (among others), recognizes the need to reward runners of all kinds.  They welcome the first time Half Marathoner, they welcome the very seasoned Marathoner.  They don’t discriminate.  This year they are recognizing those of us who love a challenge.  The Asheville Marathon & Half is now offering special discounts to Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics who may just want to descend on Asheville and take on a new and exciting challenge.

Here are is details….  and discounts…

If you want to run just the Half, save $10 by using code “2016AVLHALFMARATHONMANIAC”

Want to run the Full?  Save $20 using code “2016AVLMARATHONMANIAC”

Run both races?  Take on the Challenge and save $30 using code “2016MANIACCHALLENGE”

I think it’s very cool when a race recognizes the running maniac/fanatic in each of us.  These two groups consist of approximately 24,000 runners worldwide, and growing.  So?  What are you waiting for?  Jump on the bandwagon and score some awesome discounts to run at the Biltmore Estate next year!  They are celebrating us runners, so let’s take them up on it!

Check out all of the details on the race here:


New Promo for @AvlMarathon

Are you already signed up, or considering running the Asheville Half, Marathon or both next Spring?  On March 12th and 13th, Asheville, NC, and the Biltmore Estate are welcoming runners for a weekend of running.  The past three years the Half and Full Marathons were run at the same time on the same day.  In 2016, the Half is on Saturday, and the Full is on Sunday.  Running both means you will be running what they’ve coined the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge!  This level of challenge will bring in all sorts of running fans for an amazing weekend in one of the most beautiful and hip towns in all of North Carolina.


Right now, through September 15th, they are offering a free “In Training Tee shirt” for those that sign up with a new registration.  The picture above shows you where to go to register, and please let them know I sent you!  In the referral box at checkout use “INVITEDBYPAULAMA”. In the discount code box enter code “2016EARLYBIRDTEE” and the good folks in Asheville will send you an awesome shirt to train in.

Come run with me in Asheville next year!  I’ve run the Half and Full at this amazing destination race, and let me tell you, these folks do races right!  Since the regular cost of the training shirt is $25, for every person that signs up between now and September 15th, I will make a personal donation in the same amount to my NYC Marathon charity, the James Blake Foundation.

Run a great race, or two!  Get a free shirt, and I donate to charity.  How awesome is that?

Runners Abuzz About the Asheville Marathon

As a runner, what makes you decide to run a race?  Have you ever thought about it and really nailed down an answer?  Is it all about the location?  The price?  The size of the event?  The perks/swag?  Medal?  Runner reviews?

It may be a total combination of all of the above, but the best way to decide on a race is runner experiences.  There are so many “review websites” out there, including Marathon Guide, BibRave, Running in the USA, and so many more both domestic and international sites.  You can even find most races now have their own Facebook page, and quotes from previous runners on their websites.

As a two time runner of this brilliant race here in my home state of North Carolina, I wanted to share some quotes, sort of the “what people are saying” about the Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate.  I reached out to previous runners of the event on the events Facebook page, and heard some interesting and positive remarks.


Sheri Manley Gewelke – “I love running in the vineyards and all the tranquility of the Biltmore grounds of the a Full Marathon….. and the sweet, happy spirits of all of the willing volunteers at the aid stations… and the swag from the race is first class, the monogrammed blanket is such a keepsake.”

Silvia Henry says “One of my favorite parts of this marathon is taking the left on the bridge crossing over the river onto the west side of the estate.  I have run this marathon three times and make it a point every time to slow down and take a second to enjoy it.  It’s so peaceful and gorgeous!”

“I love seeing the Biltmore Estate off in the distance and pretending to wave at the Vanderbilt family as they allow me to run on their beautiful private grounds” – Kay Ziemer

To quote a runner who hasn’t yet run this race, Courtney Sobieski Sklenar says “I’ve never run this race before, or even been to Asheville for that matter.  I’m so grateful that my third half marathon ever will be at such a gorgeous location, and that I get to experience this course with people from all around the United States.  I can’t wait for March to get here!”

Crystal Rabiipour Shirk says “I know some people would call me crazy, but that one and a half mile hill at mile three is one of the things I look forward to the most in the race.  It’s the challenge of it, and then being rewarded by running right up to the Biltmore house, through the gardens and around the Bass Pond”.


As a previous runner of both the Half and Full marathons, I can tell you that there are views galore along the race route.  The entire race is run exclusively on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate.  Beauty and history await your arrival at the Asheville Marathon!

Asheville Marathon Discount Code

Have you ever run a race where the beauty of the course takes over and you almost forget you’re running 26.2 or 13.1 miles?  Those are my favorite kind of races!  I’m sure you would agree that a race course full of history and beauty is hard to find.


Well, the Asheville Marathon & Half in North Carolina fits the bill perfectly.  A boutique-style race, with limited entries, amazing race course and equally amazing swag, the Asheville Marathon and Half at Biltmore Estate is a one of a kind event.

Registration is now open for 2016, and I have scored a discount code you can use during registration to save money.  The deadline to use this code is July 31st, so act fast.  The code is good for the Full, Half or Challenge, and will get you 15% off current pricing.

This will be the fourth running of this event and it has sold out earlier and earlier each year.  I ran the Full marathon in 2013, the Half in 2015, and who know, I may try BOTH in 2016.  Save some money now and join me for the race.  This will be your view at mile 6!


Use this code: PAUL2016AMAROCKS while registering at

Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore Estate – Race Recap

March 15, 2015-

This past Saturday I packed up my race gear and headed to Asheville, North Carolina for the third annual running of the Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate.  A four hour drive through intermittent light rain, I arrived in Asheville just after noon.  I checked into my hotel room and walked over to the Doubletree hotel, site of the expo.


The expo was packed with runners!  With about 1,400 runners between the Half and Full, there were many excited faces there.  Not only the runners were happy, as the VIV’s (Very Important Volunteers) were smiling ear to ear.  There was a great buzz all around the expo.  I helped at the G.O.T.R. table from 1-5pm, taking donations for this worthy cause.

Of course I had to pick up my race packet, in addition to volunteering, and let me tell you the swag for this boutique race is always great!  The race shirt and logo are excellent.  There were also gloves and logo’d buff included.  Nice!  I’d like to take credit for the race buff, since I suggested it in a post race forum after I ran the inaugural marathon a few years ago.  It seems to be a big hit with runners!

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I got to meet a bunch of great folks at the expo, including friend Nicki, who was helping with the race shuttle table right next to me.  Nicki, as mentioned in previous posts, lives near where I grew up in New York.  She travels fairly frequently to races, so we’ve now run the same race in three different states (NY, VA, NC).

After the expo I headed downtown for dinner at Strada Italian with a bunch of race ambassadors and race director herself, Daphne.  Pasta, and good conversation, what every runner needs the night before a race!  Asheville is a great city full of funky southern charm, and surrounded by beautiful mountains.  Here is a picture from the top of the parking deck I snapped on my way to dinner.  See those mountains in the distance?  So cool, and not the usual view from where I live four hours east.


After dinner I made the quick trip back to my hotel for some time off my feet, and actually caught the final game of the ACC basketball tournament.  After the game, it was time for bed.  Early wake up call and race day was in the morning.

Alarm went off at 4am.  Felt pretty good, but had a headache.  Probably from sleeping in a different bed, but quickly popped a few Advil, and got some coffee in me.  I went outside for a quick glimpse of the weather.  Low and behold, no rain, no snow!  For those readers who have run this race in the past, it hasn’t had the best of luck with weather in the previous two runnings.  Snow and bitterly cold the year I ran, and persistent rain last year.  This day was very promising!  A bit of a chill in the air, around 42 degrees.  Just exactly what you want on race morning.

After getting dressed, I walked next door to get on the shuttle at about 5:45.  Like clock work, the shuttles were the perfect way to get onto the Estate stress free.  Runners can park inside the Estate, or take race provided shuttles.  Each time I’ve run the race I’ve used the shuttles, and it’s super simple.

Arriving at the start village, it was still dark.  Plenty of runners milling about.  Huge improvements have been made to the start and finish areas since I ran two years ago.  It was well planned, laid out well, and easy to find everything from bag drop to port o potties.  It was awesome.  As race time neared, the pace team gathered for a photo, and after some stretching it was GO time!

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The starting area had tons of room, and it was very exciting to see all of the anxious runners.  As the sun was starting to rise, the countdown reached zero, and we were off…..

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I had forgotten how difficult the front end of this race is.  It really surprised me how in two years, the challenge of the first six miles had completely.  As a pacer for this event, I spoke to quite a few runners as we began.  Each event I’ve paced has been a uniquely different experience.  This time around I had a bunch of folks tell me that they were not going to run with me, but ahead of me.  Interesting, but totally fine with me.  I also had a couple of guys who had goal times under two hours, but wanted to run with me.  One guy from Charlotte (James) wanted a PR, and would achieve it if he ran in the 1:57 range, so he wanted to run with me for as long as he could, and then hold on for a slower finish but get that personal best.  It was a cool bunch.

The run is super tough in the beginning.  The group of about 10 runners who told me they were going for between 1:40-1:45 finishes were in front of me meandering up the long hills in the first few miles.  James and his running buddy were right with me.  James even pushed my pace a few times up the hills.  I had a few twinges of calf cramping on the way up those first few hills, and it worried me.  No full on cramps, but concerning.  My 1:40 group was out in front of me, within a stones throw as we approached a flat at mile five.  My 2:00 group faded a bit behind me as we made the turn at the Biltmore.  My pace at the time was about 1:46.  After those tough hills I knew I could make up some time over the next few miles.  I found running an even pace of 8:00 minute miles up those hills was a huge challenge.  Here we are at the Biltmore Estate for an epic on course view.


Turning toward the gardens, and running down a few hills I was at an overall pace of 8:06 about seven miles in.  Almost back on target when I started cramping.  The next water station I drank two cups of water, and stopped to stretch.  This nagging cramping would pretty much ruin my pace from here on out.  I wasn’t hugely concerned, as my 1:40 goal group was way out in front of me that I couldn’t see them anymore, and my 2:00 or less group was still not in site behind me.  I knew I just had to chug along as best I could given my calf cramping issues.  I hate cramps!  I hate cramps!

Trying not to focus on them, I turned my attention to doing my best despite the issues I was having.  I took in the scenery, the French Broad River, the horses at the equestrian center, the awesome volunteers at water stations who cheered us on numerous times.  I really enjoyed the run, and was thankful that I was only running the Half because of my cramps.  I stopped again to massage my left leg just after the marathoners turned and crossed the bridge over to the other side of the river.  The weather was just perfection for a race, so as the final 5k approached, I focused on finishing as strongly as I could.

The battle with my legs was almost over.  Seeing the finish line come into view, I went for it.  My pace had slowly dropped because of the numerous stops for cramping.  I was disheartened with my performance, but crossed the line in 1:49:13.  Four minutes over my goal, I was wrapped in a finish blanket (another great swag item) and a gorgeous woodallion was placed around my neck.  The finisher “medal” made out of reclaimed wood from the Estate property.  A unique and beautiful award for the achievement!

One of the best parts of pacing is that those that follow you, or try to stay ahead of you always get together after the finish to chat and say thank you.  I am pleased to say that despite my cramping, all of my group hit their goals.  The girls (I forget their names, but super cool runner girls) both found me to thank me for pacing them up those hills in the beginning.  They both hit the 1:45 mark they were looking for.  Others stopped to say thanks.  One guy managed a 1:42, another guy a 1:44, and a few managed 1:40’s. I waited for James and his buddy to come in.  I wanted to see if they would get those sub 2’s or a PR,  They finally showed up across the line.  James, so thankful to me that he had PR’d despite a poor finish.  He told me it was my pacing him those first five miles up the hills that guided him to his fastest half.  It made me proud!  It just goes to show that even on a not so great day for myself, that pacing can have huge impacts on other runners, and the reason why I love doing it so much.

The Asheville race is SO amazing!  If you haven’t run it, please try it sometime.  A bucket list race event for sure.  I heard nothing but great comments from runners all over after the race.  From the expo to the finish line, the organization was awesome!  I had a great time.  Daphne, Micah and countless volunteers, ambassadors and spectators are what make this event so noteworthy.  It truly is a world class event.


Heading to Asheville

Now that my seven day stretch at work is finally over, I can focus on the weekend!

First off?  Relaxation and packing tonight.  It’s cloudy and dreary, so I am not running a final shake out run today.  Maybe tomorrow at some point, but not this evening.  I am going to put my feet up, and chill for the night.

Second thing, upon a fairly early wake up call, I will be hopping into the car for a four hour drive to the laid back, picturesque city known as Asheville.  I have an Expo table to work tomorrow afternoon, and a big 13.1 on Sunday to run.


The weather is looking good, the forecast for no rain and high of about 62 is holding strong.  Should be an absolutely lovely weekend in the mountain town, and a run by the Downton Abbyesque Biltmore Estate.


Pacing and racing update to follow this great weekend.  Hope you all enjoy!

Start Spreading the News

I have a big announcement to make!

It has been quite the topsy turvy week.  A week like so many others this winter.  It seems that for weeks I have had some amazing highs and lows.  This past week was filled with bitter disappointment, and utter joy.  In between those feelings were another five days of being sick.  Yes, for the forth time in the past year I caught a pretty bad cold.  Good news is at this point, I am almost over it, but it sucked.  I hate being sick, and I have certainly been given my fair share of illness to deal with over the past year.

I was able to get in three really good quality runs this past week.  All under five miles, but strong.  I can feel the weather turning, so that helps my attitude and willingness to lace up and get out the door.  After my marathon in Hilton Head, which is already over a month ago, I had a longer recovery than I wanted.  The weather played a big roll in that, too.  But I am feeling good now.

This coming week?  Huge news to share tomorrow!  Pacing a Half Marathon in Asheville a week from today.  It’s a pretty big week.  Two weeks from today?  The All American Marathon.  My second 26.2 of the year.  I wish I felt more prepared to knock the socks off of the Fayetteville to Ft. Bragg marathon race course, but I cannot wait to run this race again!

Stay tuned for my announcement tomorrow!  Running has brought me so much joy over the past few years, and my game is going to be stepped up another notch in a big way.  I can’t wait to share…..

But I would be a bit remiss without offering a tiny clue, so here it is.  Can you take a guess?


Quarter Century Club for Half Marathons

Five years ago, back before I had ever run a Half Marathon, I never imagined that I would be staring Half number 25 in the face.  It was a goal, for sure, to run one Half Marathon!

I quickly caught the Half Marathon bug after my first race in Jersey City, New Jersey.  I ran that race with my brother and my best friend.  It was September 25th, 2011.  It was a hot day for a race.  70 degrees plus, with a field of over 2,200 runners.  Views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and barely escaping a train crossing over the race route were all highlights.  I finished in 1:41:38.  7:45 pace.  That one race was all it took, I was hooked!

I did become a fanatic for the distance.  Since that first race, I’ve run Halves in NC, NY, NV and TN.  I’ve run small races with under 200 finishers, and I’ve run huge races with over 33,000 finishers.  There is a story behind each one.  A great story.  13.1 really is the perfect distance!

In less than two weeks, I will be running my 25th Half Marathon in less than a four year time frame.  This one is a big deal!  I will be running the Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore Estate in western North Carolina.


What’s even more fun about it is that I will be pacing at this event.  I have the 1:45:00 pace group, so I will get to celebrate my own achievement along with a group of runners.  Those runners may be attempting a Half Marathon for the first time, or shooting for a PR.  Regardless of the reasons, it will be an epic race in Asheville on March 15th.


Here’s to celebrating a quarter of the way to 100!

Ahhhhh…. To run at the Biltmore

The clock is ticking.  It’s getting closer and closer to the third annual Asheville Marathon & Half at the Biltmore Estate.


The race sold out early again this year and for good reason.  The Biltmore is an absolutely exquisite property, and running on the grounds there is phenomenal.  Beautifully manicured gardens, large old trees, winding paths and roads, wildlife, vineyard, old barns.  What’s not to love?


The perfect run surrounded by endless views of the mountains.


You can’t put a price tag on running at a place like the Biltmore Estate.

Just try not to love it!

33 days to go!