January 4 2018
An English runner explains the major differences between cross-country racing in the United States and the UK.
The Wineglass Marathon—held in the Finger Lakes region in New York State—is one of the longest-standing races in the country for good reason. Celebrating its 36th anniversary in 2017, this marathon combines small-town Northeast charm with stunning fire-orange forests and as much vino as you can handle (yes, you read that right!). Capped at just less than 3,000 runners, the race sells out every year. This October, we went to Corning, N.Y., to check out the 26.2-miler for ourselves and were stunned by the seamless execution of the marathon and the area’s autumnal beauty. If you’ve found yourself on this page, you probably don’t need 10 reasons to run and drink wine(?)—but we’ve got them for you anyway.
Technically, wine is liquid with carbohydrates, so wine tasting is basically hydrating and carbo-loading at the same time, right? Our nutritionists might not agree with this logic, but a few glasses beforehand won’t kill you—and the wineries will still be there so you can happily indulge after you cross the line. The Wineglass Marathon offers a shuttled tour the day after the race. Or you can go at your own pace and linger at beautiful spots like Heron Hill, Point of the Bluff Vineyards, Keuka Spring and Dr. Konstantin Frank’s.
Provided you don’t indulge too heavily before race morning, the Wineglass Marathon course tees you up to run your fastest race ever. The course is point-to-point, and boasts a mostly flat, net downhill grade. Held on the first weekend of October, this means sweater weather for upstate New York—perfect for racing. Wineglass offers a half marathon option too, and the full is often on the top-10 lists for “percentage of finishers who Boston qualify.” Fun fact: Elmira, N.Y., a town which neighbors Corning, is the birthplace of American record holder Molly Huddle. Coincidence? Probably—but maybe some of her speed is in the air!
Racing isn’t all about the booty—but some sweet freebies don’t exactly hurt. The full marathon registration is relatively reasonable at $90 to $135, depending on when you register. (The half is $80 to $125). Along with a bib, you get a fitted, wicking half-zip, an engraved wine glass and a split of sparking wine (for those over 21). The table where you pick up your bottle also offers chocolate truffles and—pro tip—the volunteers don’t mind if you take two.
In a world where it feels like start times are getting earlier and earlier, the Wineglass Marathon gun goes off at a reasonable 8:15 a.m. Because who wants to get up at a time with a “3” in front of it and then run a marathon? Not this girl. The excellent shuttle bus system ensures that you’ll easily get to the line on time with minimal stress.
Corning may be “New York,” but it’s a far cry (about five hours) from New York City. The area is full of sweeping forests and farmlands. The hills that rise up alongside the (blessedly flat) course are covered in trees nearing peak peep-age. Burnt orange, sunshine yellow, pale green and cinnamon red hues make for a lovely distraction as you pump out the miles.
When a big event takes over town, you would expect the locals to have mixed feelings. Not everyone likes the headache that an influx of visitors brings. However, the sister towns of Elmira and Corning take enormous pride in their marathon—and everyone welcomes the runners with wide open arms. Come race weekend, the shop signs lining Corning’s idyllic Americana-filled main street all spell encouraging messages. Stay at the race’s host hotel, Radisson Corning, for a blessedly short walk from the finish line to your room (four blocks). If you’re into a more intimate feel, there are a number of great bed and breakfasts, like The Blushing Rose in nearby Hammondsport. Dating back to 1842, the little B & B offers free breakfast from the innkeeper (who also happens to be a classically trained dessert chef).
Runners who do it for the medal are in for a lovely surprise. The Finger Lakes marks the heart of New York wine country, but it’s also the center of glassworks and ceramics—ever heard of CorningWare? The race’s medal celebrates both of those traditions with a stamped glass design made from a local artist to look like the bottom of a bottle of vino.
Running 26.2 (or 13.1) miles is sure to work up an appetite. The Wineglass Marathon goes far beyond the standard banana and dry bagel fare, serving up a full meal at the finish line. Thanks to the later start time, by the time you cross the line, it will be lunchtime. Volunteers are on hand to serve up hot pizza, nourishing soup and freshly baked cookies. Yum!
You don’t want to tire out your legs before race day, but there’s so many lovely activities in the area, that we really recommend staying a few days after the finish. A must-see is the Corning Museum of Glass. Leave three to four hours for your visit—yes, really. You will be stunned by the incredible art in this world-class setting. The museum even offers glass-making experiences so you can try your hand at blowing, say, a goblet shaped like a cluster of grapes. Nearby Elmira was the birthplace of Mark Twain’s wife and where the family summered. Head to Elmira College to see the author’s unique octagonal study and an exhibit of interesting memorabilia. If your feet can handle it (ours had some trouble to be honest, but it was so worth it), visit Watkins Glen State Park. A 2-mile hike will take you along a stunning cut-stone path, lined by 19 waterfalls.
In case you forgot… There are dozens of opportunities to cheers your race. One of the best is a free post-race museum experience. The Rockwell Museum (just two blocks from the finish) invites runners to explore its three floors. Local wineries, breweries and distilleries set up tasting tables so you can sip while you admire everything from contemporary photography to Native American textiles. When else can visit an art museum in incredibly sweaty clothes and get a little tipsy off of wine plus a post-race high?