There’s a point in every long-distance run when you know you’re going to make it to the finish line. That point in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon, for me, comes at the beer station.

Yes, the beer station.

It helps that this “unofficial” aid station is positioned at Mile 25. It helps that the enthusiastic guys and gals at Mile 25 have a cooler full of free beer, too.

The Vermont City Marathon has its share of scenic and noteworthy segments. Running through the Church Street Marketplace, with huge groups of spectators crowded outside the shops, is special. The spectacle of Mile 15 (The Assault on The Battery), complete with Japanese drummers giving runners the rhythm to tackle the most formidable hill on the course, is one of the most memorable stretches I’ve ever run.

But what sticks in my mind? The beer station. Because Mile 25 means it’s (almost) time to celebrate. And, it’s one final nice gesture from the Burlington, Vt., locals during a race that seems to be defined by them. Run through the neighborhoods on race day and you’ll see homeowners aiming their lawn sprinklers and hoses at the street to cool the masses. You’ll see families offering orange slices, ice pops and cups of water to the sweaty strangers passing by their homes. The people of Burlington make the Vermont City Marathon more than just a road race.

And those are just the people who have no official obligation to support the race. The volunteer support is even more impressive. More than 1,700 people make up the most responsive and attentive corps of volunteers you’ll ever encounter. They keep the (official) aid stations stocked. They’ll jump in with medical support for the injured and overheated. And in the hours after the race, they work to make downtown Burlington look as though thousands of people hadn’t just shut down the city for most of the day.

It’s no wonder that the Vermont City Marathon often ranks among the best places to run a spring marathon – first, or otherwise. It’s an event with all of the trappings and sponsor support of a much larger race, but without the stress of an enormous field. RunVermont does a fantastic job of putting on its flagship event.

This year marked my third run at Vermont City – I finished 224 / 2,410 in the full marathon field. And while high humidity turned the closing miles into a sodden slog along the Burlington Bike Path, I’m still glad I did it. It’s just a good run – and a good day.

There are few events that I’d rate as a consistently positive running experience. Keep this marathon in mind. It’s a race you won’t soon forget. And not just because of the beer station.

Running Ray’s Note: Special thanks to Rob for submitting his review of the Vermont City Marathon. Cheers (no pun intended)!