Do you have the means to travel to Canton, NC? Do you have legs, $35, and like awesome free stuff and delicious food? If you said “yes” to any of these questions then you should absolutely add the annual Bethel Half Marathon to your bucket list!
Finding a truly great half marathon is like finding your soul mate; you know it when you see it. As far as road half marathons are concerned, I think Bethel might be my soul mate. The race has been going on for over two decades, so the organization of this event is a well oiled, efficient machine. From the informational webpage, to registration, to information emails, to packet pick-up, the race organizers told me everything I needed to know when I needed to know it, and with a flair of Southern hospitality.
On race day, there was ample parking, REAL bathrooms, and runners were greeted with freshly brewed coffee, various breakfast breads, and a cheerful bunch of volunteers. Even more impressive was the “swag table” where I got to pick not just one, or two, or three, but 5+ pieces of swag gear from the very generous race sponsors. I’m not talking stickers; this swag table had t-shirts, hats, wallets, bags, and more.
And then there were the prizes! Everyone loves a trophy or a pint glass, but it is so much cooler and more meaningful when prizes come from the heart of a community. At Bethel, local artisans provided handmade jewelry, cutting boards, and ceramic candle holders (perfect for yourself or for re-gifting over the holidays) for all the fast people who earned age group prizes.
And the course itself was second to none for road races, complete with breathtaking views! Western North Carolina is a world class destination because of its scenic beauty and picturesque farmscapes. The community of Bethel is a perfect representation of all that is great about my home state, and as I ran the course I couldn't get over the eye candy I got to see (pictures cannot do it justice).
Of course, if you are reading this you probably want to know more about the elevation profile of the course, to which I can say it is accurately described as the flattest half marathon in WNC. There are some climbs, but nothing too crazy. I got my third fastest half finish which is AMAZING! I’d say it is a course to PR on for sure.
And then there is the after-race reception. Most half marathons provide finishers with beer, but if you get out of WNC - which is a delicious micro-brew Mecca - races give you disgusting bullshit like Miller Lite. I’d rather suck on my sweaty shirt than drink a Miller Lite. But even though Bethel doesn't give you beer, it gives you something you probably need more, which is delicious food! They know what’s up and provide a smorgasbord of soups (potato, chicken noodle, vegetable, or tomato), cookies, cupcakes, sweet breads, sweet tea, and Gatorade. Yum! I’ll take a congratulations, medal, smiling volunteer face, and bowl of piping hot soup over a big city name and a crappy beer ANY DAY!
Overall, the Bethel Half Marathon is probably THE BEST half marathon WNC has to offer. I encourage each and every person out there with legs to run this unbeatable race sometime in their life. You won’t regret it!