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A look at unusual 5K, 10K, marathons to run

Running and Fitness
Saturday, August 4, 2018

Sometimes you come across an unusual race that stands out for recognition from the usual 5K, 10K, or marathon. Here in Texas the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon stands out as the largest relay marathon in the United States with several thousand runners entering.  

Two years ago I was visiting my sister in the state of Maine and happened to see mile markers and direction arrows for a race on the side of the road. The Mount Desert Isle Marathon was being held the next weekend. Driving over the road it seemed to me that this was going to be a real challenge for runners as the numerous hills were everywhere. Not being a runner that likes to run up hills in a marathon, I realized that this was not a marathon where you try to set a PR for the distance. But, what it did have was a route along a dense forest and great scenery.  It is advertised as the most scenic marathon in the United States.  The race has a good argument to back up that claim when you drive along the route the runners will take.

Last year I visited Switzerland and watched the video of a marathon in the mountains of the Alps.  The runners started out in a small city and very soon were running on a narrow dirt trail up a mountain. Views of runners at the top was a single path and around a few rocks now and then. The volunteer at the top giving directions on where to turn and start back down was dressed in a heavy coat, hat, gloves and rain gear. I tried to imagine how thin the air was at the top, and running up hill, and trying to breath as much air as you could to keep going. This had to be one of the most difficult marathons to run. I am sure it was a very scenic view as you went over the top of the mountain, but with very little oxygen and breathing heavily, I do not think runners were really paying attention to their surroundings. From watching the video replay of the race it seemed that a few clouds below the top of the mountain prevented runners from seeing what was below them anyway.

This year I visited my sister in Maine and read about another unusual race. Trail running is becoming increasingly popular here in Texas and in many parts of the country. The 50K and 50 mile race down in the Houston area a few years ago was all on a soft pine covered trail. I covered the race for the paper for several years and it was a challenge that had a good number of runners entered.  I think the race was canceled because of a lack of a sponsor.  Maine also has a trail race that deserves mention.  This is the Down East Sunrise Trail Relay footrace from Ellsworth to Eastport. The distance of the race is 102.7 miles for the eight runner teams. The legs for the runners varied from 3.6 miles to 10.6 miles. As far as being a trail, the first 85 miles are on an old railway bed that makes the trail a wide gravel path. Much of the trail is straight that makes it easier to follow at night. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. in Ellsworth and finishes the next day in Eastport.  

The runners are given a book of rules to follow during the run.  Runners had to wear a reflective vest, a blinking red light on their back, and a headlamp. No alcohol, loud music, or littering was permitted. If you needed to use a bathroom you needed to go off trail and follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles by digging “catholes” for any residual leftovers. If you have ever been to Maine at night there are not many large cities near the race and night time gets very dark. If it is a clear sky you can really get a great view of stars in all their brilliance. The runner that ran the 4.4 mile leg along the Machias River smelled the salt air and mudflats of the river. As the sun started to rise to start a new day the runner on that leg had the benefit of watching the fog lift off the water and hearing the birds sing as he or she completed their leg of the race.  

The reporter that published the article in the paper mentioned that out of 42 teams, and over 300 runners, his team finished in 16 hours and 30 minutes and 11 seconds for 25th place. The object of his team was to complete the race and have fun. Each runner received a medal of two railroad ties crossing the state of Maine with the trail showing where they ran. After a few cold beers and some food to replenish lost energy the next step was to drive home and get some sleep after staying up all night.

It seems that there are still a few races that fall outside the normal routine for runners to take advantage of. The one that I would like to see or read more about is the Gap of Dunloe Half Marathon in Kilarney, Ireland.  It is an over and back 7 mile run over the highest part of Ireland.  I have walked the Gap and think that going over and back would be a challenging race.  I will do more research on this race for future reference.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666