Passport to Race: Ukrops 10k

Ukrops 10K Start

by Dean Christesen

March 28, 2009
RICHMOND, VA – Thirty-two thousand people ran on Richmond’s most scenic street on Saturday for the 10th annual Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K.  The sky over Richmond was overcast, the air chilly, but unlike last year’s race, the rain never came.  With 37 different waves–the last beginning over 90 minutes after the first–the race is just as friendly for walkers as it is runners.  So many racers and an estimated 50,000 spectators help make this race a notable one, and a definite must-run for Virginians.

The course begins on Richmond’s Broad St., just near Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, staying on Broad only briefly before crossing over to Monument Ave.  Runners pass all of the monuments that embellish the street: J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson (you may recall Richmond was once the capital of the confederacy), and the oddballs Matthew Maury and Arthur Ashe.  Along with these six monuments, Monument Ave. is known for its large and expensive homes, its wide grassy median with its beautiful greenery, and its use as a major thoroughfare in Richmond’s uptown neighborhoods.  After three miles on Monument Ave., running through the Fan and Museum Districts and nearly reaching Willow Lawn, the course makes a U-turn, sending the runners the opposite way down the now familiar avenue.  For about two miles, runners experience what they saw on the outbound from a new perspective.  Once passing J.E.B. Stuart’s monument for the second time, with about one mile to finish, the scene is new.  Runners re-enter the VCU campus from a different street, passing the various eccentric administration buildings and sprinting to the finish at the entrance to Monroe Park.

Dean ChristensenUnlike courses that wind through a city, providing new things to see and a variety of terrain and elevations, the Monument Ave. 10K’s course is almost literally a down-and-back route.  The excitement of seeing the same thing twice is comparable to that of a loop course: nearly nothing changes on the inbound 5K except the runner’s energy level and the new sights of the final fragment of a mile.  The course is fairly flat; there are absolutely no extreme pitches or hills, but the outbound does have an almost-negligible incline.  However, the course is not what Sports Backers–the organization that runs the race–claims makes the race so exciting.  Instead, it’s the sheer amount of people that participate, whether running, volunteering, or cheering.  Like any great race, a sense of community is prevalent throughout.  A “Dress-Up-and-Run” competition encourages people to dress up in costumes for cash prizes.  Group themes enter a category of their own, spawning some outright ridiculous sights.  This year, I spotted Indiana Jones with a massive boulder made from cloth following closely behind, as well as Willy Wonka with two orange-faced oompa-loompas (if Wonka had a bigger entourage, I’m sure they would have been contenders for the prize).  The Dash for the Cash allows a random registered racer (usually a mere mortal like the rest of us) to have a head start and attempt to finish before the first elite athlete does, and creates even more excitement surrounding the race.  This year, like last year, the woman with the 2.7 mile headstart finished before the race’s winner, Tilahun Regassa, to win the cash prize.

The race prides itself with having thirty five bands and performers along the route.  But one major criticism of the race that I have is the level of musicianship that the event organizers allow.  This seems like a strange topic on which to critique a race, but consider this: people who run or workout with an mp3 player carefully select each song to make a mix that satisfies their need to be energized, motivated, and sufficiently pumped to push their body to its limits.  Each perceptive sense is extremely vulnerable under conditions like a race.  As much as a runner doesn’t want to smell cigarette smoke or car exhaust while running, some people also do not want to be attacked with the unattractive sounds of less-than-desirable bands.  Thirty five bands playing trance music would have been more exciting (and without a doubt more energizing) than what I was forced to hear as I ran by.

Sixty-six runners make up the 100K Club, reserved for the runners who have participated in all ten years of the event.  This year was only my second time running the race, but as it has become such a Richmond staple, so has it become an annual essential.

Dean Christesen is a student and musician in Richmond, VA where he is the Assistant Director of Jazz at WRIR, Richmond Independent Radio and creator of RVAjazz.  Check out his blog, The Artist’s Rightful Place.

For more information on the Ukrops 10k, visit their official website:

For more information on Richmond, VA, click here:

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7 Responses to “Passport to Race: Ukrops 10k”

  1. 1 d0nnatr0y April 3, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    Great review, Dean! I love that race and hope to do it again some day!

  2. 2 cedric April 4, 2009 at 2:00 AM

    Yeah, the bands were hurting. Bad church rock and pre-pubescent bands mainly. Was more distracting than motivating.

  3. 3 thekimrunner April 7, 2009 at 6:13 PM

    good review… definitely on my list of races to run one day! i ran coper river bridge run this weekend, another huge southern 10k… 31,240 finishers. same guy won that won in richmond. i didn’t see him:)

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