A paddler pushes through the wild whitewater of the Green River narrows.
Leaves are changing. Temperatures are dropping. The crisp air means it’s time to race. Here are eight fall classics every Southern adventurer needs to experience.
All Night Long
24 Hours of Georgia Conyers, Ga. • October 8-9 Grab a crew or ride solo on the trails that held the 1996 Olympic cross-country race and the epic battle at the 24-hour solo world championships between pro riders Chris Eatough and Craig Gordon. While this year’s course was still being established at press time, expect some steep climbs and wheel-stumbling rock gardens, along with the all-night delirium that comes with 24-hour racing. Teams of two, three to five, and six to ten riders are welcome. 24hoursofgeorgia.com
Odyssey Fall Finale 24-Hour Adventure Race Buchanan, Va. • October 15 The course curators at Odyssey Adventure Racing, lead by pioneer Ronny Angell, long ago set a standard for epic multisport challenges in the Blue Ridge and beyond. The final event in their annual series is a 75-mile backcountry maze in the Southwest Virginia woods traversed by foot, boat, and pedal. Soloists and teams of up to four tackle off-trail bushwhacking, steep singletrack riding, and class II paddling during a day-long challenge that tests navigational wit as well as endurance. A shorter sprint version of the course will also be offered for novice racers. oarevents.com
Marine Corps Marathon Washington, D.C. • October 30 Let’s start with the bad news. This year’s Marine Corps Marathon sold out in a record-setting 28 hours and four minutes, so you won’t be joining the massive field of 30,000 runners who flock to the nation’s capital every fall. The marathon is extremely popular for its scenic 26.2-mile course that moves from Arlington into Georgetown and eventually enters the National Mall, where it passes a handful of famous landmarks including the Lincoln Memorial.
The good news is the Mid-Atlantic has two more top-quality marathons that take place every autumn. On October 15, runners can take on the Baltimore Marathon’s challenging course through the city’s best areas, including the Inner Harbor waterfront, Federal Hill, and Fells Point. Also try the Richmond Marathon, where you can run the mellow grades of the historic Southern city’s downtown streets with most likely cooler temps on November 12.
Best Boulders in Dixie
Horse Pens 40 Bouldering Competition
Steele, Ala. • November 5
This is the final event in the Triple Crown Bouldering Series, which brings elite climbers to the South for three comps every fall. The unique boulders at Horse Pens 40 Park, located atop Chandler Mountain in Alabama’s Appalachian foothills, feature unique sandstone routes with tough top-outs that are often compared to Fontainebleau in France. Owned by a climber-friendly couple, the park is also a well-known bluegrass venue, so it’s able to hold the biggest comp in the series with a hearty crowd of climbers coming out to the crag every year.
Steep Creek Action
Green River Narrows Race
Saluda, N.C. • November 5
At high noon on the first Saturday of November, the best in boating meet at the Green River for this now-famous creek competition in Western North Carolina. It’s indisputably one of the most extreme river challenges in the world—a fast and steep run of class V craziness that includes huge drops and hairpin turns on epic rapids like Go Left or Die and the infamous Gorilla. Despite international attention, the race is still the same free homespun affair that was started by local paddlers back in 1996. If this kind of creek boating is above your pay grade, it’s still fun to join the rowdy batch of spectators that has increased in size every year as the comp has become more popular. Watching the action requires a decent hike into the woods, so get there early and join the pack.
JFK 50 Miler
Boonsboro, Md. • November 19
This is where ultrarunners come for fast times and a chance to celebrate the history of their sport. Approaching its 49th year, the JFK 50 Miler was started just months before Kennedy’s assassination, as part of the president’s push for improved nationwide physical fitness. It still remains one of the country’s most cherished ultra races, beloved for its scenic setting in the mountains surrounding the Potomac River and a stint on the Appalachian Trail. With a long stretch along the flat C&O Canal Towpath, the race also produces some of the ultra world’s fastest times. While popularity has already filled the race this year, you can still enter the field by purchasing one of the 100 specially reserved charity spots for an extra donation.