Polar Bear Run, Red Nose Half Marathon, Callaway Gardens Marathon, Hogpen Hill Climb

Here’s Our Top Picks for January Running Events and Races in Georgia

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the American Runner Blog!

Each month we will feature running events and races of varying distances and difficulties under A, B, C, D headings: Running in Atlanta (A), Best Race in Georgia (B), 2022 Georgia Race Calendar (C), Most Difficult Race in Georgia (D). We will sometimes comment on the events as well as provide you with useful links. We will also showcase running apparel and gear with an emphasis on Made in USA products.

January Weather!

If running in January has a common theme, it’s whether the weather will provide you with a cold crisp day or a death-defying experience. I’ve met runners from as far away as Oregon at some Georgia Marathons looking for a chance to run in better weather. You Know: Down South. I also have memories of a January Marathon when cold and wet for 4-hours there was no medical tent at the finishing line for you. And then there was Mark and I running down Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta the Saturday morning after a light snow. He fell. I broke. So we’ve really looked hard into offering up some good races for you to Enjoy plus a little 18K hill climb that’s quite a Challenge. One’s in Atlanta, the others are in Pine Mountain, Columbus, and Helen. If you’re looking for something a little further South, stay tuned. You’re going to love the March/April events on our 2022 Georgia Race Calendar!

A (Atlanta) — Polar Bear Run

There’s a reason this race sells out each year, so if you’re looking for Flat and Fast, the Polar Bear Run is your January 5K race. Click on the link and you’ll see drone footage of runners going past the big Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in East Cobb. And that’s a good thing. Lots of parking, indoor bathrooms, and a hometown crew that’s been setting up this event for years. I ran the Polar Bear Run once. Probably still have the sweatshirt somewhere around the house. And I still remember my finishing time: 22:01. Not bad for an old guy. Like I said, if you love flat and fast … you’re going to love this 5K race on the East Cobb side of Marietta.

B (Best) — Red Nose Half Marathon

The Red Nose Half Marathon is a race I’ve never run. But I keep hearing good things about Riverwalk in Columbus, and that’s where this race begins. The website states “the 13.1 mile course starts and finishes at 11th and Broadway following the scenic Columbus Riverwalk.” There is NO COST to Register. However, you need to order early IF you want to buy one of their long sleeve technical shirts. Additional race information can be found at http://www.columbusroadrunners.com

Marriott’s all over the River Walk with two hotels within walking distance: Columbus Marriott and AC Hotel Marriott, for those wanting a ‘more European experience’, whatever that is? There’s also a Hotel Indigio. Columbus has lots of other options, but Trip Advisor seems to be saying that you’ll have a 5+ mile drive to the Start Line.

C (Complete) — Callaway Gardens

C Completes our 2022 Georgia Run Calendar for folks who want to do something more, well interesting…
The Callaway Gardens Marathon is a great alternative to dying on the Hogpen Hill Climb. You get out of Atlanta. Book a room for the weekend. Get up Saturday morning for a quick stretch and head out the door. I did the Olympic Triathlon at Calloway one year, but not this race. The organizers describe their event as: “The Half-Marathon is one loop around the Gardens, and the Marathon is two loops. There’s nothing quite like running through the beauty of Callaway Gardens in this popular race, so register today and start training for the new year”. Some people hate ‘em, but I personally like the 2-loop races. Gives you a second chance to look around knowing where you are.

Hog Pen Hill Climb, Unicoi State Park, Georgia running events January 2022
The Hogpen Hill Climb
Unicoi State Park near Helen, Georgia
(Photo Credit: David Owens and Zachary Ryan David)

D (Difficult) — Hogpen Hill Climb

The Goal is to see IF you can run this little 18K in your Half Marathon time. But here’s the catch: The website describes the Hogpen Hill Climb as one of the “Toughest Races in America.” You’ll start mid-morning at Unicoi State Park, run towards Helen, and then up the Hogpen Gap.

Here’s how to train. Find the biggest hill in the neighborhood and run up and down, for hours! Be prepared for some Climate Change too. Temps drop as you go up so layer up. This is a point-to-point race where you can grab a hot chocolate and a boiling hot cup of chicken soup at the top and then catch the free shuttle back down to the Park. Your registration money goes towards the local Habitat for Humanity, so you’ll feel good writing that check. Or whatever.

Personal: I kicked you know what my first time at Hogpen and it’s kicked my butt ever since. You may start out surrounded by dead grass in the park, but you can finish looking at icicles and snow at the top. Strava recorded 2,000 feet elevation gain my last 7 miles of the assent. If the roads are too icy further up the mountain, the Race Director has an out and back Plan B. It’s bad too. My recommendation is to book a room, eat a little German Food at Bodensee German Restaurant in Helen, maybe even grab a bier and enjoy. I’ve stayed at the Riverbend Inn and most recently at the Hofbrau Riverfront Hotel, but you’ve got lots of choices including the cabins at Unicoi State Park.

Runners’ Gear

Somewhat fanatical at looking for Made in USA anything, I discovered a little company up in Vermont called Skida. As in skiing. “It all started back in the winter of 2008 when Corinne Prevot picked up some patterned stretch fabrics at the May Store in Lyndonville, Vermont and made hats for her cross-country ski teammates and friends at Burke Mountain Academy.” 10 Years later I’m here in Atlanta finding them online and ordering a Skida headband for me to wear here in Georgia. I like warm, and my Skida Headband is light, warm, snug, and holds my sunglasses nice and tight. Since then they have expanded their line-up to include beanies, Alpine, Nordic, Headbands and a whole lot more. Best I can tell it’s all locally Made in Vermont.

Oh, and I run in Wright Socks, also Made in USA. You can also find ’em at REI in every color under the sun except the boring white tab pull socks that I wear.

Click Here to check out our Gear Page

Runners’ Links January 2022

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