Last summer, a close friend and I were sitting around talking about our favorite road races. Almost immediately he started gushing over the Covered Bridges Half Marathon, a late spring race that snakes through the picturesque Vermont towns of Woodstock, Quechee, and Pomfret.
“It’s the most beautiful race I’ve ever run,” he said. But then his mood got serious as he prepared to impart some valuable wisdom. “But you gotta register right away. It fills up quick. Everybody wants to run the thing.”
‘Everybody’ is a bit of a stretch, perhaps, but not by much. When I went to sign up in mid-December, I just barely got in. A few minutes after registration opened, it was closed off. The race’s 2,300 slots had been filled.
The Covered Bridges Half Marathon dates back to 1992, when race founder, David Chioffi and some supporters launched a race whose course highlighted the Woodstock area’s best running routes. Dirt roads, farmland, and of course covered bridges, were all on the itinerary. Four hundred runners turned out for that inaugural run. And then it grew. By 2001, the entrants numbered nearly 3,000.
Over the years the course has been altered and in an effort to keep things manageable, an entrants cap has been imposed. But its popularity has only soared.
To a non-runner the idea of plunking down $50 to do something that you can essentially do anytime you want, for free, may seem odd. But a road race, the good ones anyway, turn into a rolling block party. It was certainly like that in the Woodstock area. The roads were lined with people. Strangers applauding strangers. Big signs and big applause as waves of us passed through town centers. At various points bands played. Brass and zydeco. String and folk. At the finish, enthusiastic bystanders urged us on, gave us that final kick as we ran down the home stretch. It’s the closest I’ve come to feeling like a celebrity.
The scenery lived up to its billing, too. For a long stretch I ran on a dirt road that meandered beside the Ottauquechee River. I passed by pastures and big farms, through the heart of delightful town centers and some of the Vermont’s most beautiful covered bridges. In Woodstock I ran down the center of the Middle Covered Bridge, one of the country’s most photographed.
Was I ready to stop running? You bet. But I was also excited for next year’s race. It’s June 7, in case you’re interested. For more on the race visit: www.cbhm.com/