BY STEFANIE V.
Date: June 10, 2017
Location: Williamson, WV
If someone asks me what my favorite marathon is, my answer every time is the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon. This is why I’m putting it on my Must Race 2017 list.
The Hatfield-McCoy Marathon is located in Southern West Virginia on the border of Kentucky in a region that depends heavily on tourism from the history of the Hatfield-McCoys, the coal industry and the far-reaching ATV trails, aptly named after the Hatfield-McCoy feud. The residents of Williamson and Matewan, West Virginia as well as surrounding areas of Kentucky come out in full force and with open arms to welcome every single person who visits.
The difference between this race and any other event at this distance I’ve seen or participated in lies solely in the volunteer support. I never have participated in any race with a water stop every mile, and to have one for almost the entire length of the course shows the commitment to a quality, memorable experience for every runner.
The Hatfield-McCoy Marathon is ranked as one of The Weather Channel’s 15 Toughest Marathons.
If you’re looking for a race teeming with historical context, the Tug Fork region is the place to go, and the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon is the race to choose. The event begins in Goody, Ky. and follows the path through quiet country backgrounds, passing by the sites of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud including the Randolph McCoy home site, the McCoy graveyard and Rev. Anderson Hatfield’s home site where the Hog Trials took place.
At the halfway point, you’ll be in Matewan, a nationally-registered historic town known for the Matewan Massacre and intricately-built flood wall. The race website describes the Matewan Massacre as “a gunfight between miners and Baldwin-Felts agents brought in by coal companies to prevent union organization.”
Once you’re out of Matewan, you’ll cross the bridge separating West Virginia and Kentucky and continue down River Road, which begins the most beautiful but toughest half, in my opinion. Most of this part of shaded, which could provide some relief in June heat.
Just as you’re about to hit the wall, you’ll enter the Tug Valley Country Club and cross the river over a suspension bridge at about mile 19. You’ll get back to the road, where your last six miles or so will be the toughest as the sun beams above you. But, the volunteers will be ready with sunscreen, ice and possibly even popsicles.
The marathon ends in Williamson, West Virginia, where spectators are there to congratulate you and the Hatfields and McCoys are ready to give photo-finish high fives. When you see your results, don’t fret. This isn’t a race to PR. The Weather Channel ranks the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon as one of the 15 Toughest Marathons because of the course and 80+ degree temperatures. The average finish time in 2016 was around the 5 hour, 30 minute mark.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun, historically-themed marathon that challenges you in distance, terrain and heat, the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon is for you. For a lower price than most marathons, the race support and swag is unmatched. You will receive a shirt, finisher’s medal and mason jar for your moonshine, should you stumble upon any while you’re visiting.
Also, course bonus and *spoiler alert*: miniature ponies. I won’t tell you what mile. You’ll have to run it to find out!
While in town, there are many places to explore as well. Look for the Matewan Depot Welcome Center & Museum, the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce (made entirely out of coal) and the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trails.
Now, the question remains; Will you survive Feud Country?
Editor’s Note: This is the first profile in a series of five highlighting unique, challenging races for which there are no special qualifying standards or lotteries to enter.
The marathon ends in Williamson, West Virginia, where spectators are there to congratulate you and the Hatfields and McCoys are ready to give photo-finish high fives.
Hatfield McCoy Registration Fees
|Jan. 1 –
|April 2 –
|1st Half Marathon
(Blackberry Mountain Course)
|2nd Half Marathon
(River Road Course)
|Double Half Marathon||$110||$130||$150||$170||$190|
(12 & under)