Big Changes Draw Big Crowds to 2014 Blue Ridge Marathon

Blue Ridge Marathon Continues Growth, Success

Blue Ridge Marathon runnersCloudless skies and cool temperatures greeted runners in downtown Roanoke on Saturday morning for the fifth running of the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. This year’s race proved to be bigger and better than ever, continuing the success of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon.”

The Roanoke Region’s showcase running event lived up to the billing in 2014, with a larger venue, larger crowds, and more runners than ever.

Big Changes, Big Crowds

The 2014 Blue Ridge Marathon was tougher than ever. A course modification upped the elevation change to nearly 7,500 feet for the full marathon and more than 3,600 feet for the half marathon, but that did not stop nearly 2,000 runners from accepting the challenge. Also new this year was the addition of the Anthem StarK 10K run which took racers up to the Mill Mountain Star and back, giving runners a shorter race option. The half marathon proved to be the most popular race option with over 750 finishers.

Not all changes had to do with the course however. The start/finish line was located at the newly renovated Elmwood Park, giving the large crowds a perfect staging area for pre- and post-race activities. Live music, vendors, a beer garden, and hundreds of cheering fans greeted runners as they crossed the finish line and received their food and medals. The park took on a party atmosphere as more and more racers made their way through the corral and into the amphitheater to stretch their legs and cash in their complimentary beer ticket. It may have only been 10 a.m. but they certainly deserved a cold one from sponsors Parkway Brewing or Starr Hill, who were both pouring pints all day.

The combination of near-perfect weather and the new venue created a vibrant atmosphere at Elmwood.

“The timing couldn’t have been better, the newly renovated Elmwood Park opened up and it was the perfect time to move the finish line, have it here, showcase this community, showcase this park, and it was spectacular,” Roanoke Regiona Partnership Director of Outdoor Branding and Race Director Pete Eshelman told race sponsor WDBJ-7 following the event.

Local Support, Worldwide Reach

The 2014 race drew competitors, fans, and spectators from over 40 states across the U.S. and five countries across the world, many being exposed to the beauty of the Roanoke Region for the first time. Hundreds flooded the finishing area to cheer racers through the finish line, and even more lined the course to encourage runners to get to the top of the next hill, not to mention the army of volunteers manning the course. The community support goes a long way toward creating an inviting atmosphere that runners enjoy and will keep them coming back, says Catherine Fox with Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

“You’ve got people coming here to experience [the race], figure out why it is the toughest road marathon and they’re here discovering that,” she said. “When you have people from 40 different states, several countries, as far away as Hawaii and Alaska, they’re taking that message back and that message is what brings people here.”

The Roanoke Regional Partnership created the Blue Ridge Marathon to showcase the region’s commitment to making outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship a core component of the Roanoke Region lifestyle. Over the first four years, the marathon has generated over $1.5 million for the local economy, including nearly $500,000 in 2013 alone. 

From Day to Night

Staging the event at Elmwood Park not only give the day a festival-type atmosphere, it also allowed for a new way to cap the marathon. The race-day festivities transitioned seamlessly into the Down by Downtown Music Festival headliner G. Love & Special Sauce, who played a show at Elmwood starting around 6 p.m. Racers could purchase a discounted concert ticket with their race bib, and many stuck around Saturday night to enjoy the show. Providing weekend-long entertainment for visitors and the community as a whole should prove to be a winning combination for the future.

All in all, the 2014 Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon was a huge success for the Roanoke Region, continuing to put the area’s natural beauty and outdoor community on display. 


Check out all the post-race action including photos, race comments and more on the Blue Ridge Marathon Facebook Page >>>

Race results can be found on the official Blue Ridge Marathon race website >>>

Photos of winners receiving their medals can be found on Flickr >>>

Check out all the coverage, including videos and interviews from WDBJ >>>

The Roanoke Regional Partnership would like to thank the following organizations for their support of the Blue Ridge Marathon: Foot Levelers, Anthem, WDBJ, Carilion Clinic, Fink’s Jewelers, Tag Heuer, Roanoke City, and Roanoke Parks and Recreation. See a full list of sponsors, volunteers, and community partners >>>

Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Math Madness Gets National Attention

Your shot at Warren Buffet’s billion dollars may be over, but one quest for the perfect, or at least better, bracket is putting the national spotlight on one Roanoke Region school. CBS News featured a math program at the Roanoke Valley Govenor’s School focused on the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. 

Picking up on a story by local affiliate WDBJ-TV, CBS News ran the story on the homepage of their website. The piece features the unique way the Governor’s School implements the real-world applications of linear algebra using the NCAA tournament as a bracket as a learning tool. 

“I’m not a big basketball fan, but, teaching seniors in the spring, you have to have something that’s exciting that’s also educational to keep them motivated, and this seems to work,” Linda Gooding, the classes instructor told CBS. “It’s really applying math in a fun way for something that they all are interested in – the March Madness”

The students are tasked with picking the best brackets based on mathematical models, the same process students at Davidson, Georgia Tech, and Princeton use to predict their brackets. The brackets are then compared and pitted against the others in the class. The winner is awarded an A, and has bragging rights among their classmates. 

The Roanoke Region is known for its Acclaimed Higher Education with over 25 colleges and universities in the area, but now the high school STEM teachings of the region are also drawing national attention. This innovative way to teach the material, while also keeping it fun to hold students’ attention is what puts the Roanoke Region on the cutting edge of education. 

Read the story and see the video on >>>

Ardagh Development Wins CiCi Award

When Ardagh Group announced they were locating a new state-of-the-art metal can manufacturing facility in Roanoke County, it was a big win for the Roanoke Region. Now, the Ardagh announcement is winning awards of its own. 

Ardagh’s project received a 2014 CiCi (Corporate Investment & Community Impact) Award from Trade & Industry Development magazine. In August, the Luxembourg-based food and beverage metal and glass packaging company announced it would be investing $93.5 million and creating nearly 100 jobs in the Roanoke Region. It is the largest manufacturing investment in Roanoke County’s history and the largest new business announcement in Virginia in 2013. 

Trade & Industry Development granted Ardagh one of 15 Community Impact Awards, citing not only the initial corporate development, but also the larger impact of choosing to locate in the Roanoke Region. As the result of the announcement to locate their new plant in Roanoke County, one of their major suppliers, Netherlands-based Canline Systems, also chose to open a new facility in Roanoke County to be closer to its major customers. 

“The Ardagh Group project is on schedule in the Hollins area with significant building renovation work nearing completion,” says Jill Loope, Roanoke County director of economic development. “Blaine Construction, contractor for the project, says that approximately 85 percent of the renovations are complete with a target finish of May 2014. Equipment installations are also well underway with plans to be fully operational by the end of the year. A grand opening ceremony is planned for October with details to follow in the near future.”

Ardagh Group construction


“The Community Impact category of Trade & Industry Development magazine’s 9th Annual CiCi Awards not only highlights 15 U.S. companies that announced economic development projects during 2013, but celebrates programs that will make a big impact on their respective communities as well. The Community Impact Awards also recognize the local and state economic development agencies that work in lockstep with their communities to attract this kind of development.

Every Community Impact Award recipient has a great story behind the project. And behind the project are hundreds or even thousands of people who stand to benefit, each with their own stories as well.” 

Read more about the 9th Annual CiCi Awards >>>

Salem Makes Top Ten Safest Cities List

Virginia is for Lovers, but Salem, Virginia may be for Safety Lovers. Salem was recently named one of the Top 10 Safest Places in Virginia by the real estate blog, ranking 8th. Blacksburg also made the list, coming in at No. 3. 

Using the latest FBI crime data from 2012, Movoto ranked the 37 locations in the state with a population over 10,000 people. The researchers looked at three specific criteria when determining the rankings: violent crime, property crime, and the chance a resident will be the victim of crime. Violent crime was weighted heavier than the other two. 

Along with mentioning the Salem Red Sox and the Pancake House on Apperson Dr., the ranking cited only eight violent crimes in Salem in 2012, saying it was one of the least violent on the list. Residents have only a 1 in 3,155 chance of being the victim of violent crime. Check out the full Top 10 below:

The 10 Safest Places in Virginia By Movoto Real Estate