Race Review: The James River Scramble

On Saturday I ran in the James River Scramble 10K. I forgot I had signed up for this race (which is part of Dominion Riverrock) way back when and when I got the e-mail last week with instructions for packet pick-up I thought about just skipping it. Boy am I glad I didn’t because this race was an absolute freaking BLAST!! Have you ever had so much fun while you’re running that you literally just smile the entire time? Well that was me on Saturday morning running this trail race! Read on for my full review and make sure to check it out next year!

Expo and Packet Pick-Up: There is technically no expo in the traditional sense, but Riverrock itself is one GIANT weekend long expo and something you should absolutely take advantage of! As an outdoor festival there are SO many interesting booths and fun demonstrations to check out. The festival runs from Thursday evening through Sunday and I would definitely recommend spending some time wandering around Brown’s Island and checking out everything Riverrock has to offer! While the “expo” is hands down awesome,  I only have one qualm about this race, and that is the packet pick-up situation. Packet pick-up is held at the American Civil War Museum at historic Tredegar in downtown Richmond. While the ease of picket pick-up was simple (just find your name and pick up your packet), it’s the parking situation that can make you pull your hair out. I went to grab my packet on Friday after work (pick-up opened at 4:00 PM) and parking was a nightmare. It’s absolutely not Sports Backers fault, but I would love it if packet pick-up were held at the Arthur Ashe Center like with the Monument 10K. I was able to park up in Oregon Hill and avoid having to pay for a lot space, but it’s a bit of a hike down and back up a massive hill coming in and out of Brown’s Island. All things considered, not too big of a deal, but it’s super nice to just be able to swing in and out of packet pick-up and this is not a race for that. If I had to do it over again, I would plan my pick-up for when I had time to actually stay and wander around the festival on Friday evening, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me time-wise this go-round!

Accommodations and Travel: Riverrock is held downtown in Richmond, VA near the James River and the canal. Easily accessible by the interstate and lots of great option for hotels in the Bottom (aka downtown RVA). You can also easily stay in the Fan or West End and get down to the race the day of but I’d definitely recommend staying downtown if you’re traveling in to be within walking distance (lots of great beer trucks and bands, so make sure to walk!). Aside from the Bottom, Oregon Hill is another fun and historic option! With most of my Richmond race reviews I say that there is so much to do in the city and lots to explore. That’s still true, and feel free to explore, but you can also spend the entire weekend at Riverrock! Make sure to catch the bouldering competitions, watch the kayakers hit the rapids of the James River, catch a band Saturday night, and DEFINITELY make sure to check out the Air Dogs… my favorite part of Riverrock!

Course: Like I said before, this course literally kept me smiling the ENTIRE 6.2 miles of the race! You’ll start over on Brown’s Island right near the packet pick-up location at the American Civil War Museum and then begin the race heading towards the canal. From there, it’s trails, trails, trails! Through the Buttermilk Trail, down across the Floodwall and through Belle Island and the new pedestrian bridge to make one big loop! The trails are so much fun and true trails. You’ll be dodging roots, rocks, jumping over streams, across boulders, and straddling pretty decent cliffs. While the trails are a blast, you do need to be careful as the paths are very narrow in some areas and if you’re right behind the runner in front of you, it can be difficult to avoid hazards. Make sure to stay at least a few feet back just in case you need to quickly avoid a giant stump! Honestly, this race felt like a 5K because of how exciting the course was, there were literally ZERO boring areas and it all seemed to go by so quickly! It’s also a very fast and flat course and I was surprised with my (just barely) under one hour finish time despite the rugged terrain. There were also three full water stops along the way which was great since it was a hot and humid morning.

Ease of the Start Line: Start time is 9:00 AM for this race, so no need to get up super early (thank you Lord)… however, you may want to head down a bit earlier than usual to get a parking space. I personally had a TON of things to get accomplished after the race so to save time and avoid having to haul my butt up 2nd Street I Ubered down to the race and Ubered back… BEST. DECISION. EVER! Spent about $14 and was able to avoid trying to find a free street space or pay to park in a lot way up the hill… great idea and definitely something I’ll do next year as well! The start line itself is very relaxed as this is technically a fun run. There were a little over 700 participants and plenty of space to spread out. There were plenty of porta-potties and also large jugs of water with cups available for some pre-race hydration. The race did begin in waves but there were no technical corrals, everyone just lined up based on their estimated pace and they spaced the starts about one minute apart for every 30-40 runners which kept the trail less congested. Overall, awesome and EASY start line!

Swag: No real swag for this one, which is very different from normal Sports Backers productions. At packet pick-up I got a nice cotton t-shirt with this years Riverrock design and my bib, and that was it. This was a fun run though so the lack of a medal or technical tee wasn’t a big deal at all. Honestly, this race was so much damn fun I would have gone without the free t-shirt just to be a part of it!

Post Race Party: I didn’t hang around for the post race party (had to get home and build a patio in my backyard) but trust me, Riverrock is a blast and absolutely worth sticking around for! Your race bib comes with a free beer and if I hadn’t already planned such a busy day, I would have for sure headed over to Brown’s Island to have a beer (or two or three or four) and watch the Air Dogs for the afternoon!! When it comes to a post-race party, Riverrock is the ultimate… and last for four straight days!!

Like I’ve said multiple times throughout this review, this race was SO much fun! Aside from the James River Scramble 10K, Riverrock also hosts the Filthy 5K (a mud run that’s dog friendly) as well as the Bust the Banks Trail Half. I’m undecided if I’ll stick with the Scramble or bump up to the half for next year but I most definitely will be returning to hit the trails at Riverrock 2018 and I hope you’ll join me!

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