Williamsburg, Va., which already has parks and attractions galore for Baltimore day-trippers, has added a half-marathon and 8K race, taking place Saturday and Sunday.
Participating runners get the usual T-shirts and protein bars, but also receive free tickets to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg, and discounts for friends and family. They get the chance to run through the streets of the living history museum in the early hours, before it gets crowded, and the satisfaction of helping not one but two causes.
The weekend is a sort of extended salute to the military, to runners and to American history, and will include live music, fireworks, a parade and other entertainment.
The Run for the Dream races are the first ever to take runners through the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg, known for giving visitors the experience of living in an earlier time in American history.
Proceeds will benefit two organizations: the Wounded Warrior Program, which provides support for injured service members, and An Achievable Dream, a K-12 school based in Newport News for students who come from a background of poverty.
Kelly Cannon, director of development and special events for An Achievable Dream and event director for the races, said the idea for the race began with Walter Segaloff, who founded the nonprofit school in 1992. Several years ago, she said, he saw Wounded Warriors taking part in the Marine Corps Marathon and decided to develop a race that would benefit both organizations.
"Williamsburg is the perfect venue," she said, because of its attractiveness to tourists and its focus on history.
"[Segaloff] approached us in part because of the location and because we, too, are an educational organization," said John Bacon, senior vice president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "Our two purposes complement each other well."
Both races will begin and end on the campus of the College of William & Mary, with the 8K starting at 8 a.m. Saturday and the half-marathon at 8 a.m. Sunday. Live music, food and drinks will greet runners as they complete the course in an open-air party that is open to the public. Dave McGillivray, who has overseen 22 Boston Marathons, is the race director.
Injured service members pay no fee to register, and at least 19 had signed up for each race, Cannon said. They are leading the other runners, some in wheelchairs and some walking, she said. Active service members receive a 50 percent discount on registration for the races.
Since Saturday is Armed Forces Day, the weekend also includes a performance called Salute to the Nation, starting at 8 p.m. on the Governor's Palace lawn in Colonial Williamsburg. Boxed dinners are being sold (go to colonialwilliamsburg.com to order by May 18) for a picnic on the lawn before the event, an hourlong telling of 250 years of American history. That will be followed by fireworks and a parade featuring fife and drum units from around the nation.
Run for the Dream also includes three "fun runs," a one-mile race, a 400-meter dash and a 100-meter sprint. Organizers hope Race for the Dream will become an annual event and say they have surpassed their goal of registering 4,000 runners for its first year.
Race participants receive passes to Colonial Williamsburg, the famed living history museum, and the first 3,000 to register for the half-marathon receive passes and discounts to Busch Gardens, voted the world's most beautiful amusement park 21 years in a row by the National Amusement Park Historical Association.
"Getting into the road race business is a new thing" for Colonial Williamsburg, which is already busy, Bacon said. But the runners will be out of the historic area by 9 a.m., so tourists won't be affected.
"For us, I think the decision to do this was based on the mission," he said. "This is an important cause, and it's something we're proud to be part of."
If you go
Colonial Williamsburg is hosting Run for the Dream, a half-marathon and 8K race Saturday and Sunday. Runners receive passes to Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, and discounts for friends and family. Non-runners can watch the race and see a history show Saturday night followed by fireworks and a parade.
To get there: Williamsburg is about a 31/2-hour drive from Baltimore. Take Interstate 95 south into Virginia and take I-64 East, via exit 28A, toward Norfolk/Virginia Beach. Go 38 miles, then merge onto Route 143 East, toward Williamsburg/Jamestown/Yorktown.
Lodging: The Williamsburg Woodlands Conference Center is the race headquarters. The adjacent Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites is offering $99 rooms for race participants. The Governor's Inn has a $79 rate.
For more information: Visit the Run for the Dream website at runforachievabledream.com, or see the Colonial Williamsburg site at history.org. Call Colonial Williamsburg at 757-229-1000.