Filthy, Fit and Fun in Richmond, Virginia

Where in the World - Virginia Breezin'

"Combo of history and nature...all rolled into mud"

Running events in Richmond, Virginia take full advantage of the area's setting. The renowned Monument Avenue 10k takes nearly 40,000 runners and walkers up a beautiful road lined with stately homes and historic monuments, and with thousands of cheering spectators and energizing bands. History comes to life in the new spring event, Stride Through Time, and the James River plays a prominent role in Dominion Riverrock's more extreme sporting events. Even the annual November marathon utilizes the challenging hills and inspiring overlooks along the James.


Henricus_Dauber_Dash_mud_runThe Henricus Dauber Dash, an annual Richmond Sports Backers June run, takes advantage both of Central Virginia's history and of its natural beauty, set at historic Henricus Historical Park at the bend of the James River beside Dutch Gap Conservation area. The five-mile run utilizes the park's wooded trails and adds obstacles, finishing with a dash through the re-created historical buildings of the 17th century settlement. This year's event took place on June 23, 2012.

As a regular runner and racer, I enjoy trail running as a break from hard pavement beneath my feet and buildings as my visual distractions, running instead on soft trails, through shaded forests and beside the river. The obstacles of a mud run add variety, too. With about a dozen obstacles, the Dauber Dash sends runners clambering over hay bales and picnic tables, crawling through mud pits, scrambling over mounds of dirt, high-stepping through netting, and sloshing waist-deep in the James River. These obstacles are a break from the straight and narrow but not overly challenging. The shade along the trails is generous, mitigating the June heat and humidity that is typical to the area.

Since p.r.'s are generally impossible during such a race, runner intensity seems to be replaced by camaraderie. Couples and groups of friends run together, exchanging encouragement and friendly barbs along the way. The Mud Guppies event, starting at 11 a.m., is a one-mile race for kids ages 8-14, with smaller hay bales but the same ooey, gooey, messy mud pit.

As usual, the Sports Backers welcomes runners at the end of the run with bottled sports drink and water and healthy snacks. Given the nature of this race, they considerately add water hoses and changing tents to the post-race offerings. Participants also receive a complimentary soft drink or beer.

A few minor changes might make the event even better. Since runners are less likely to tote their own fuel belts, having a sports beverage or even gel at the three water stops would be welcome. I'd also appreciate an earlier start time, as by 9 a.m. the heat and humidity are quickly gathering steam. Instead of the ho-hum beer selection, I'd like to see a more flavorful craft beer offered.

Like other Central Virginia races, the Henricus Dauber Dash is not only a great event for local runners, it's a nice excuse for runners from elsewhere to visit Virginia, combining sight-seeing with an enjoyable race. If you come, don't be put off by the park's location near towering power plants--once you turn into the park, their influence fades. 

The Henricus Dauber Dash in Hopewell, Virginia, a few miles south of Richmond, is another well-run Sports Backers event, encouraging fun and fitness in Central Virginia. As the slogan of this Dirty Dash Through the Past goes, it's "a strangely awesome combo of history and nature...all rolled into mud."

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