Chocolate Chase 10k (Lewisburg, WV)

This race kicks off the annual Chocolate Festival in Lewisburg, WV.  My husband somehow stumbled upon this little gem of a festival a little over a year ago. He told me about it and I checked it out online: Cute, active, progressive little mountain town? Check! Local road race? Check! More chocolate than you’d ever care to eat? Check! This was right down our alley. We attended last year and immediately planned to return this year.

The Chocolate Chase 10k benefits the Hospice of West Virginia. It is a point-to-point race that starts at the local (teeny-tiny) airport and winds its way through rural countryside to the finish in front of the courthouse in downtown Lewisburg. There is no shuttle, so it takes a little forethought if you don’t know anybody in town to shuttle you to the start. I brought my bicycle, as I had the year before, and dropped my husband off at the airport, where he would sit for roughly 2 hours while I drove back downtown, parked and rode my bicycle back to the airport.

The bike ride was a lot colder this year than it had been the year before. Actually, it was painfully cold and I remember nothing of the ride except for the awful pain in my hands that radiated up into my chest.  And passing a runner, and being very jealous because he looked a lot warmer than I was.  Oh, and I remember snot bubbling out of my nose as I tried to greet said runner.

I had been struggling with the thought of this race ever since we’d registered for it more than a month before. I had just started running again after about a 4 month running hiatus due to an injured IT band, and I desperately wanted to race it. I desperately wanted to run fast, period.  Right before I registered, I’d asked my physical therapist if I’d be able to race it. He basically said that although I probably could race, whether I actually should race depended on whether or not I wanted to continue to be able to run after the race. The furthest I’d run in months was the 5 miler I’d done the previous weekend. So I knew that I needed to take it easy and not push the pace if I didn’t want to end up re-injuring myself.

So I lined up in the back. My Garmin was being finicky, so I was fiddling with it. I was the very last person over the start line. I enjoyed the atmosphere at the back of the pack. People were chatting, laughing, talking about how they hoped they would be able to make it all the way. I looked up and saw the back of my husband as he turned the first corner. It was the last I would see of him until the finish. I looked around at the beautiful countryside and forced myself to enjoy it. I reminded myself how lucky I was to be able to run at all.

Even at my steady, controlled pace, I was passing everybody who had started out too fast. At about mile 4 I caught up to a man who I’d been following for the previous 2 miles. He seemed to be going at a pace that felt about right, so instead of passing him, I stayed with him. We talked. His name was Gregory. He had run another race on this same course in the fall. He told me he’d been too lazy to run lately, and that he was definitely feeling it.

He pulled ahead of me when we saw the finish line, as I had no intentions of sprinting to the finish. He turned around and we congratulated each other. I found my husband. He had run really well. My time was six minutes slower than I’d run last year.

I tried very hard to not let it bother me. But it really bothered me. A chocolate festival is not the place you want to find yourself when you are absorbed in self-pity. It had taken me decades to come to the realization that overeating never makes anything better. For whatever reason, I refused to recognize this truth and proceeded to eat myself into a chocolate-covered stupor. On the drive home I remembered that not only does overeating not make anything better, it makes things much worse. Now I was cranky and feeling sorry for myself AND I had a stomach ache.

This morning was beautiful. I drank my coffee on the front porch. After work I went for a run at Sugar Hollow. It was unseasonably hot, and on the way back to my car I stopped at Snake Hole and waded into the water, which was crystal clear. I looked up at the incredibly blue sky and the spring-green leaves on the trees. I smelled the salty sweat on my forehead and felt the cold mountain water wash it away and I remembered how unbelievably lucky I am to be able to run.


Walnut Creek

Distance: 15 miles of trails
Walking: yes
Running: yes
Biking: yes; mountain
Dogs: yes
Kid-Friendly: yes
Wheelchair/stroller accessible: Not really. There is a small portion (less than .25 miles) of paved trail.
Fee: Memorial Day through Labor Day:  $3 Adult/$2 child for residents of Albemarle County ($4.50/$3 for non-residents)

Check out the county website.

Take a virtual tour.

Walnut Creek Park has a lot to offer in the way of outdoor recreation. There is a disc golf course and fifteen miles of trails for hiking, trail running or mountain biking all situated around a beautiful lake. During the summer months, there are lifeguards on duty at the beach, and canoes available to rent.


There is a new playground located in the woods adjacent to the far parking lot.


The trails range from smooth to fairly technical.


Running at Walnut Creek is a treat for me. There are two loops that I like to do depending on how far I want to run.

Short loop (about 3 miles): This loop combines the Blue Wheel Trail with a small portion of the C’ville Bike and Tri Just Climb It trail. Beginning at the far parking lot (the one with the picnic pavilion, bath house and swimming beach,) Turn left at the far end of the parking lot and follow the steep rocky trail down and across the grassy dam. As you cross the dam, the lake will be on your right. Enter the woods directly in front of you and begin climbing with the lake still to your right. This is the Blue Wheel trail. After about half a mile, there will be a trail (also marked blue) on your right. Turn right. In a little over a mile, the trail will dead end back at the trail you started on. Turn right and follow the trail down. After a while, there will be a creek on your right and then a steep climb back up to the dam. Turn right out of the woods and cross the dam again. This time, look for a trail off to your right. Turn onto this trail and the creek you were running along before will now be on your right. The trail turns and climbs back up toward the road. When you hit the road, turn left and take the road back to your car.

Walnut Creek 3 mile loop

Long Loop: (8.8 miles) This loop combines the short loop with another, longer loop. I start this one in the lower parking lot (the first one on the right after you enter the park.) Look for the trail that heads toward the lake near the entrance of the parking lot. Follow it along the lake and across the foot bridge, then turn left onto Luke’s Loop, then bear left onto Wilkin’s Way (red). Keep to the left to stay on Wilkin’s Way until you come to the Bike Factory trail (blue) on your left. Take this trail until it comes out at the entrance road, near the gate. Cross the road and take the trail (orange) into the woods. This is C’ville Bike and Tri’s Just Climb It trail. Follow this trail all the way until you come out at the dam. At the top of the hill, turn left and cross over the dam. Take the trail to the left (blue) and continue down, along the river and then back up. As you near the top of a long, gradual hill, look for a trail (also blue) on your left. Take this trail until it intersects with the trail you started on. Turn left again and follow the trail back down to the dam. Cross back over the dam and follow the trail up to the parking lot. Cross the parking lot and take the trail to the left of the playground (facing it from the parking lot). When you get to the grassy, open area, continue to follow the trail across and into the woods. The trail will take you back to the parking lot where you started.

Walnut Creek 8.8 mile loop