Fellowship of the Idiot – Albemarle, NC (2017)

In hearing about this race, I thought the “idiot” part was because it was a 19.7 mile race going up to the top of Morrow Mountain and back down again… turns out that wasn’t the whole story. The race started at 5:30am at the YMCA in Albemarle. I was supposed to go with a few other people from the running group, but that fell through on Thursday night, so I hit the road from my house just after 4:00am. This was a race, but in name only, really – there were no bibs, no timing and minimal course support. There were 4 water stations – 2 that you passed twice – which also had Gatorade and GU at some of the stops.

I heard from someone that there were over 230 people who showed up to do the race and since there wasn’t any official timing, it was really just like a big group run. The start was the RD coming over a loudspeaker, saying a few words and saying “Go!” Being out in the middle of the country in North Carolina, it was really dark to start the race, so I was glad I had my knuckle light with me. There was a fairly steep hill near the beginning of the race which was really just a preview of what would be coming, so I took it slow and the runners spread out pretty quickly into a long line heading down the road.

I did a race up to the top of Morrow Mountain in 2014, so I knew what I was getting myself into with this race, and I wasn’t really surprised by the terrain too much, though we did start / end in a different part of town, so the beginning and end felt very different than my first race, but once we got to the State Park, it was all familiar territory.

The climb up Morrow Mountain was brutal – in about 3/4 of a mile you go up about 330′ – but it’s good training for my upcoming double marathon in Richmond. The entire course had 2437′ of elevation change, so about a third of what I can expect in each of the marathons… hmm, I may be starting to have some doubts about this… but, back to the current race!

As I was heading up the mountain, I could see the sun coming up through the trees and knew I would miss the official sunrise at the top of the mountain, but even so, it was very pretty!


When I made it to the top of the mountain, I was greeted by lots of volunteers, music and my favorite sign of the day.

There’s an overlook where you can go out and see across the mountains and I may have been a little later in getting there than my compatriots, but it was a beautiful morning in the mountains!

Heading back down the mountain, the sky had lightened up considerably and you could see for miles across the countryside.

Finally at the bottom of the mountain, we got back onto the rolling countryside, complete with ponds and cows enjoying their early morning.

And now for the rest of the race…
By this point, the runners were really spread out and while I could see people every now and then, we were all pretty much running on our own. I actually felt really good in the second half of the race and was able to pick up some speed (yay downhills!). We stay on the country roads for awhile, but soon ended up on a 4 lane highway. As it turns out, running on this type of road at 5:30am doesn’t make much of an impression – 8:30am is a little different story. There were directional signs to let us know where to turn, which was really helpful at this point since there were very few people around. When we got onto the 4 lane highway, I could still see someone a bit ahead of me and they had crossed over to run with traffic. At first I thought there may have been a sidewalk over there, but not seeing anything definitive, I stayed running against traffic.


I thought the idiot part had to do with climbing a mountain before sunrise… at least there wasn’t much traffic to dodge, but 55mph cars aren’t much fun to run around

Eventually I had to cross all 5 lanes to make a right turn onto Main Street which was another fun adventure because there was no crosswalk to get to the correct side of the street, so I had to walk with traffic up a hill until I could see far enough in both directions to cross and get on the sidewalk.  The rest of the course I was able to either run on a sidewalk or against traffic and only had one other minor issue where I had to wait for traffic before getting onto the correct street.

By the time I finished the race, there were only a few people left at the “finish line” but I was able to get my official certificate of completion and my shirt for completing my very first Fellowship of the Idiot race. There was also a table with some snacks and the all-so-important chocolate milk! When I got my certificate, the person told me to make sure to take it with me if I ever leave the country as it will be much easier to get back in if I have that document with me – they were certainly having fun with handing out the certificates to all the newbies.

Overall, I think this is a fun concept, but the logistics of it (especially with how big this race has become) is a little too sketchy for me to fully endorse it. The other race I did up to the top of Morrow Mountain was put on by the same company but I think the route they chose for that one had less traffic to contend with. Maybe I’m getting picky after having done so many races – based on the Facebook comments, everyone else seemed to love everything about the race – so take this review as you will and just know what you’re getting into if you decide you too want the official title of “idiot”!

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