Cruel Jewel 100-Miler
Blue Ridge, Ga., May 16

The name of this up-and-coming 100-miler certainly alludes to the nature of the course, but by no means is able to fully do it justice. Located in the stunning Chattahoochee National Forest of northern Georgia, this out-and-back route begins and ends in Blue Ridge, Ga., with Vogel State Park as the 50-miler finish and 100-miler halfway point (although in total, the 100-miler course is actually 104 miles). With 60,000 feet of elevation change, unpredictable weather patterns, suffocating humidity, technical singletrack, steep ascents, and steeper descents, the Cruel Jewel might seem more cruel than jewel. But if those technicalities don’t deter you from coming out, the race has already established a reputation for having a challenging yet rewarding course and quality organization with extremely dedicated volunteers. dumassevents.com/cruel-jewel

Stump Jump 50K
Chattanooga, Tenn., October 4

Local running enthusiast Matt Sims started this 50K in 2002 with the intention of raising awareness and support for the Cumberland Trail Conference and the community’s running scene. Only 12 years later, this race has grown to become one of the Southeast’s classic ultras. The course mostly follows the singletrack on Chattanooga’s Signal Mountain, but runners will also come across everything from pristine trails to creek crossings and the infamous Rock Garden. rockcreek.com/stumpjump

New River Trail 50K
Fries, Va., October

One of the oldest rivers in the world, the New River runs for over 300 miles through three states, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The New River Trail parallels this historic river for 39 miles and serves as the route for the New River Trail 50K. For folks wanting to take that first step toward running ultras, this race is a great introductory event to the world of long-distance racing because of its even, flat, dirt terrain. ncnr.org

Shut-In Ridge Trail Run
Asheville, N.C., November 1

More than a half, yet not quite a marathon, what this 17.8-miler lacks in distance it makes up for in difficulty. Held during peak fall weather, the course climbs 3,000 feet along leafy, rocky singletrack. Already in its 36th year, the Shut-In represents one of the oldest and toughest grassroots races in the region and attracts elite runners and amateurs alike. The course parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway for most of the race, making it easy for friends and family to stand by and cheer you on. jusrunning.com

Hellgate 100K
Fincastle, Va., December 13

In 2003, ultrarunner David Horton created the Hellgate 100K, starting what would become one of the most respected and sought-after achievements among the ultrarunning community. Horton’s own passion for challenging both body and mind drove him to such accomplishments as setting a speed record for the Appalachian Trail in 1991 and, to this day, holding the third fastest time ever for the 2906-mile transcontinental crossing. His intimate relationship with challenge and, at times, utter despair helped him to mold the Hellgate 100K, a course that winds for over 60 miles through the Jefferson National Forest. With a start time of 12:01AM, more than 13,000 feet of climbing, an 18-hour time limit, and brutal winter weather, this race is a must-do for ultrarunners looking for a sizeable test. eco-xsports.com

 

A Shut-In Win

Scott Williams

Scott Williams

Regional runner Scott Williams grew up watching the annual 17.8-mile Shut-In Ridge Run and its runners. Stretching from the French Broad River to Mount Pisgah, this community-held event challenges some of the area’s top runners with its rocky terrain and steep climbing.

“I’d always respected that race because it’s so hard,” Williams says. “The first time I ever ran the course I swore I was never going to race it.”

Williams eventually changed his mind and joined the annual gathering of runners. In 2012, Williams won the Shut-In, a moment he says has truly been one of the highpoints of his running career.

“Just trying to keep moving forward is a mind game,” says Williams. “You can be running really well but be going so slow. If you want to prepare to race Shut-In I’d suggest running a lot of uphill and downhill. Also be prepared to get beat up and switch gears a lot.”

On Williams’ list of other top regional races are the 40-mile Mt. Mitchell Challenge, the DuPont Trail 12K, and the New River 50K.

Best of the Rest

Mount Mitchell 40M Challenge & Black Mountain Marathon
Black Mountain, N.C., February 22 • blackmountainmarathon.com

Thomas Jefferson 100K
Charlottesville, Va., March 15 • tj100k.com

Terrapin Mountain 50k & Half Marathon
Sedalia, Va., March 22 • eco-xsports.com

Virginia Creeper Marathon
Abingdon, Va., March 30 • runtricities.org/creepermarathon

Mountains-to-Sea 50K/12M Trail Challenge
Raleigh, N.C., March 30 • bullcityrunning.com

Dirty Kiln Half Marathon Trail Race
Holidaysburg, Penn., April 5 • alleghenytrailrunners.com/dirty-kiln-trail-race

Smoky Mountain Relay
Brevard, N.C., April 25-26 • smokymountainrelay.com

Jackson River Scenic Trail Half Marathon and 10K
Covington, Va., June 28 • visitalleghanyhighlands.com

XTERRA Beech Mountain 15K/5K
Beech Mountain, N.C., July 26 • dirtyspokes.com

Springmaid Splash 10K
Spruce Pine, N.C., August • mitchellraces.com

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50M/50K
Pine Mountain, Ga., September 27 • thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge

Grindstone 100 Miler
Staunton, Va., October 3-5 • eco-xsports.com

Blue Ridge Burn 5k & 10k
Roseland, Va., October 11 • blueridgeoutdoors.com/blueridgeburn

Mountain Masochist 50-Miler
Lynchburg, Va., November 1 • eco-xsports.com

Upchuck 50K
Chattanooga, Tenn., November 1 • rockcreek.com

Duncan Ridge Trail 50K/30K
Blairsville, Ga., November 22 • duncanridgetrail50k.com

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